I hope you are taking part in our Summer Wednesday night DVD series, “Living Faith” with Randy Harris. It is a series on the Sermon on the Mount, led by a Bible faculty member from ACU. Randy is that rare combination of an extremely gifted Bible student/theologian, but also a teacher/speaker who relates well with listeners. And of course the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is an incredible statement on godly living from our Lord.
I ran across an article by a woman who was an English professor at a secular university in Texas. She as
signed her first-year students a section out of their Rhetoric textbook: the Sermon on the Mount in the KJV.
The responses included some you would expect, such as “This is a direct quote from the Bible. Why is it in
the Literature Book?”
Some other responses included these:
- “The stuff the churches preach is extremely strict and allows for almost no fun without thinking it is a sin or not.”
- “I did not like the essay ‘Sermon the Mount.’ It was hard to read and made me feel like I had to be perfect and no one is.”
- “The things asked in this sermon are absurd. To look at a woman is adultery? That is the most extreme, stupid, un-human statement that I have ever heard.”
Randy actually addressed some of these concerns in the first session, saying that it’s not a question of “Can you” fulfill this teaching, but rather, “Will you?” I agree with Randy that there is absolutely nothing in the Sermon on the Mount to make you think that Jesus doesn’t expect us to live this way. He does. And through the gifts He has given us such as the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, the church, we can live faithfully and obediently to Christ and His commands. While living this way does not cause us to earn our salvation—we are still saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ—it is the way we are called to live as disciples of Christ who have been forgiven through His sacrifice.
Here are a couple more responses. They remind us that many think the teaching here—and throughout Scripture—is outdated, irrelevant, and does not apply to people today.
- “Many believe that this sermon should be taken literally. I believe, on the other hand, that, because the scriptures have been interpreted from so many different languages, we should use them as a guide—not law. Another fallback is that certain beatitudes are irrelevant to current life-styles. Loving your enemies, for instance, is obviously not observed by the majority today.”
- “In this essay the author explains the doctrines of an era in the past which cannot be brought into the future in the same context. This essay now cannot be taken the same way it was written. It can be used as a guideline for good manners.”
Next week I will share some of the author’s conclusions, as well as some of my own. For now, let me ask you what you think. Is the Sermon on the Mount simply about “good manners?” Is the teaching of Scripture irrelevant?