In my last post I explored how Bosch sees in the great Commission the essential elements of baptizing and teaching and how grace and works are two sides of the same coin. But what does this teaching involve?
Bosch notes that, “The phrase ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt 28:19) refers back primarily to … the Sermon on the Mount. Indeed, this sermon expresses, like no other New Testament passage, the essence of the ethics of Jesus” (1993:69).
Last year I did a short series of posts on the rationalizations we as Christians use to either soften or “found ways around the clear meaning of the Sermon on the Mount” (1993:69) and other clear Scriptures. The comments (which are always appreciated) showed how we really all struggle – it is a good read in itself and I’m actually using that post for the writing if my thesis so if you can, please comment on that post!
I’ve also posted on my struggle with the Sermon on the Mount. I am more convinced than ever that all of us rationalize … it doesn’t make it acceptable but if we don’t face this reality then we will have a blind spot that could in the end have dire consequences.
Bosch lists a few of the ways in which we avoid the thrust of the Sermon on the Mount and I wonder which one you use the most (I’ll tell you which one is my favorite).
- The Sermon is really only for a special group of Christians like clergy or monastic orders.
- The Sermon is impossible to follow and this impossibility should lead us into grace, so to follow this is not as important as knowing that we can’t.
- The Sermon’s purpose is “not the concrete obedience of these demands but rather the correct disposition of the heart”. You can therefore follow the Sermon in your heart but not in your body for it’s the heart that really matters.
- The Sermon was really only intended as an “interim ethic” and only during such a short period can someone “live up to such high expectations”. (1993:69)
Recently Dallas Willard has noted that the Sermon consists of examples of people Jesus preached to on that day. Willard therefore stresses that these serve as prototypes of people who were standing there who were poor, meek, persecuted etc. What Jesus was after, according to Willard, is to show that change should come from the inside and that it is accessible to anyone.
My default fall back loophole mechanism is definitely number 3. Even though I know its not valid I can still find myself passionately engaging issues of love, justice and forgiveness in my heart without living it out with my hands, feet, mouth and money. My next favorite one is number 4. So in this lists’ order with Willard’s being number 5. My order would be 3,4,5,2,1.
Other friends blogging about Bosch:
Arnau (blogging with us from Swaziland)