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Issues Facing Missions Today: 47. The Kingdom Ethics of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: Healing from Sin, Doing Righteousness, and Making Peace

The Kingdom Ethics of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: Healing from Sin, Doing Righteousness, and Making Peace

Mission and ethics are inseparable.  The communal testimony of God’s reign among His people is a proclamation of the Gospel of God’s reign.  Without such a testimony, there is no good news.  The church in every culture and age faces the challenge of living faithfully before God—life in the Kingdom—despite the pressure to conform to culture and submit to the powers of the age.  Various ministers, churches, and denominations have succumbed to the forces at work in Western culture as society lurches away from its somewhat Christian moorings.  Yet every generation of believers in every social context is challenged to be God’s faithful witness in the counter-cultural Kingdom of God.

The ethic of Jesus is an ethic for people prepared to live within the reign of God—the Kingdom of Heaven.  It begins with recognition of and repentance for sin, pursues the restoration of God’s righteousness, and seeks peace with God and other people.  It is a fulfillment of God’s commandments in Scripture (the Old Testament) as interpreted and made possible by Jesus, the Messiah.  The following outline and list is a brief presentation of this Kingdom ethic of Jesus as presented in Matthew’s Gospel.  In square brackets, possible questions for personal reflection are offered as each of us seek God’s reign and righteousness among us.  To live individually and corporately as citizens of God's Kingdom is also to live missionally in a world yet to discover the healing, righteousness, and peace of God.

            1. Seek first the Kingdom of God and its Righteousness (Mt. 6.33):

a.       Repent in preparation for the rule of God (Mt. 4.17).  Receive Jesus’ shed blood for the forgiveness of your sins (Mt. 5.3; 26.26-28; Mt. 20.28).  [Ask: ‘Am I really poor in spirit, being aware of my own sin and need for Jesus’ sacrificial death for me?’]
b.      Let your actions be determined by a changed heart (Mt. 15.18-19).  Seek inward righteousness, not external righteousness (Mt. 5.20; 23.24-32).  [Ask: ‘How is God changing my heart so that I ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’ (Mt. 5.6)?’]
c.       Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, not on earth (Mt. 6.19-23).  [Ask: ‘What worldly pursuits step between me and God?’]
d.      Do not worry about what you shall eat or wear, putting your faith in God (Mt. 6.24-32).  [Ask: ‘How do my earthly needs lead me to trust in God more rather than put me on a path to establish my own security apart from depending on God?’]
e.       Examine the Scriptures, challenging your traditions by them, in order to live justly and not selfishly (Mt. 15.3).  Follow Jesus’ interpretation of the Scriptures (Mt. 7.24-27; 23.10).  [Ask: ‘Do I regularly and earnestly study the Scriptures to be guided by God’s Word in my life?’]
f.        Seek the weightier commandments of justice, mercy, and faith, and then other commandments (Mt. 23.23).  [Ask: ‘Am I balanced in my Christian ethics, not focusing first on the minors but rather first on the majors—without neglecting everything else, of course?’]

2. Love God and love Your Neighbour as Yourself (Mt. 22.37-39; Mt. 7.12):

a.       Seek reconciliation with your adversary and deal with your anger (Mt. 5.21-26).  [Ask: ‘How can I reduce the animosity, make restitution, and achieve reconciliation?’]
b.      Do not lust but contain sexual desires within the bonds of marriage (Mt. 5.27-32).  [Ask: ‘How can I treat others as subjects rather than objects of my own desires, such as in sexual gratification?’]
c.       Be truthful (Mt. 5.32-37; Mt. 23;18-22).  [Ask: ‘How can I be honest in all my affairs rather than find ways to deceive others for my own gain?’]
d.      Do not retaliate for violence or force but give lavishly to those in need (Mt. 5.38-42).  [Ask: ‘How can I scale down the cycle of violence not only by not giving people the punishment that they deserve but also in meeting the needs they have that drive them to violence in the first place?’]
e.       Love your enemies, such as by praying for them and being civil to them (Mt. 5.43-47).  [Ask: ‘How can I seek good towards and for persons who oppose me?’]

3. Forgive Those Who Have Wronged You

a.       Forgive as you have been forgiven by God (Mt. 6.12, 14-15) [Ask: ‘How can I continually remember God’s forgiveness towards me and so be prepared and willing to forgive others.’]
b.      Avoid hypocrisy (Mt. 7.1-5).  [Ask: ‘Whenever I am wronged, how can I first remember to examine myself to be sure that I am not guilty of the same towards others?’]
c.       Be Merciful (Mt. 9.13; 12.7).  [Ask: ‘How is my practice of discipleship of Christ a performance of mercy?’]

4. Become Humble as a Little Child (Mt. 17.24-20.28).  [Ask: ‘What can I do to be humble and avoid power, privilege, and position so that I am aware of my own weaknesses, do not bring out others’ weaknesses or cause them to sin, seek the good of others, pursue a path of forgiveness and restoration, forgo life’s comforts when necessary for the Kingdom of God, and encourage and serve others?’]

a.       Give up your rights so as not to offend others
b.      Do not destablise the faith of others
c.       Try to restore the one who has sinned against you to fellowship
d.      Remove the unrepentant person from the community
e.       Forgive others without limitations
f.       Do not cause a spouse to sin through divorce, and be ready to practice celibacy if divorced for the sake of the kingdom
g.      Let children come to Jesus
h.       Go beyond the 10 commandments by becoming a disciple of Jesus who forgoes this world’s securities and comforts for the sake of active involvement in the Kingdom of Heaven
i.      Become a servant of others rather than a leader, like Jesus (also Mt. 23.11-12)

5. Don’t do righteousness for show and in competition with others but only for God (Mt. 6.1-18; 23.5-10).  [Ask: ‘How is my pursuit of righteousness a pursuit of God’s approval and not that of others, no matter how religiously or politically correct certain activities appear?’]

a.       Do not make a show of public giving to those in need
b.      Do not pray for show
c.       Do not let others know you are fasting
d.      Avoid public honours (pious dress, places of honour, public acknowledgements, titles of honour)