In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus helps us envision a change life.
In chapter 5, verses 21-26, Jesus presents this life as free from the terrible burden of anger. And anger is a terrible burden to bear. It is like carrying a heavy wire basket full of knives, with points sticking out on top, bottom, and all four sides. You try to hold it away from your body, but whenever you get tired and let down your guard, you get poked. You try to shift the weight, but it happens again and again. And it’s not just you: the people close to you keep getting hurt.
Can you imagine yourself free from anger and the contempt that accompanies it? No more outbursts, never again feeling like your head is going to explode. No sleepless nights spent fuming, no relationships alienated by it. Instead, honesty, openness, and reconciliation. That is what life as God’s person in God’s kingdom with God’s people looks like. It’s the life Jesus pictured for us.
Next, it is a life that is free from out-of-control sexual desire. Jesus pictures this for us in the sermon from 5:27-33. Can you imagine what our nation would be like if we were all free from anger and out-of-control sexual desire? The divorce rate would plummet. The #MeToo movement could happily return to other things. Marriages would thrive. Girls would be safe.
Compare that to what we have now: people who sell fuel for igniting sexual desire and then hypocritically deny responsibility for the blaze. Relationships ripped apart by lust, and a divorce rate for Christians that matches that of non-Christians—about 50 percent.
But Jesus showed us a life where women don’t have to be afraid and will not be used to satisfy selfish desires. A world governed by mutual respect, where marriages are models of faithfulness and contentment. That is what life as God’s person in God’s kingdom with God’s people is like.
Next Jesus pictures a life that is free of deceit and manipulation, which is possible once uncontrolled anger and sexual desire are removed. (This is Matthew 5:33-37.) In the life Jesus pictured, people do what’s right rather than talk as if they did. They refuse to use words to manage what people think of them or to manipulate people into giving them what they want. They don’t stretch the truth or promise what they don’t intend to give. They’re not constantly spinning everything – they don’t need to. The life Jesus pictured is one in which family and friends trust a person completely, because his or her word is gold. Does that sound good to you?
It is a life (this is 5:38-42) that is free of resentment. How many lives are poisoned by the bitter fruit of resentment: siblings who haven’t spoken in decades; former employees who burn with rage; children who don’t go a day without remembering the betrayal they suffered from their parents, even though they died years ago. To simply be free of the bitter taste of resentment—Jesus pictured a life in which that is possible; in which it is normal.
To put it briefly (which Jesus does in 5:43-48), it is a life where love – love for God and for people – washes out anger and uncontrolled sexual desire and deceit and manipulation and resentment. Imagine a barrel filled with toxic chemicals, with insects and worms and snakes and algae and filth. Now imagine that someone starts pouring clean water into that barrel – hundreds of gallons of it, then thousands. The filth and the algae and the snakes and worms and bugs and toxic chemicals start to overflow the barrel. It takes time, but if the water keeps pouring, sooner or later all the ugly, dangerous stuff will be washed out. That is what love does in the life of God’s people. The life as God’s person in God’s kingdom with God’s people is, more than anything else, a life of love. And just as contempt accompanies anger, joy accompanies love. This life gets better and better.