Oh, how we love your precepts!

Jan 9, 2017 by

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Fewer young adults are active in church than ever, we’re told, but they tend to be drawn more to congregations with strongly held beliefs than those with less well-defined faith positions.

The Christian faith, of course, is not primarily about mouthing theologically correct statements but living the kind of life Jesus lived and taught. Or in the words of the late Clarence Jordan, “faith is not belief in spite of evidence but a life in scorn of the consequences.”

So how does the church demonstrate the kind of radical, Christ-based convictions that are worth living and dying for?

One of the gifts the Hebrews of biblical times most treasured was the Torah, the law of God brought to them by Moses and expounded on by their prophets and psalmists. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is an acrostic poem with 22 stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza has eight verses, each of which celebrates the blessing of knowing God’s wisdom for living as found in the “Ten Words” and other commands given at Mount Sinai.

The Torah, besides being a guide for everyday living, was also the equivalent of their new nation’s Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, essential to their identity as a people free at last from Egyptian bondage and exploitation.

Christians, members of God’s revolutionary new worldwide kingdom, should exhibit the same delight in the commands of King Jesus found in his inaugural “Sermon on the Mount,” thought to be used as a catechism for instructing first-century believers in the faith. Given the authority with which the Servant-King spoke, the Nine Beatitudes and other teachings found in the gospels and the early apostles should be given the highest priority in Christian worship and in our daily living.

So in support of a radical Christian conservatism, in the sense of treasuring, preserving and passing on true faithfulness to God, I propose the following kind of litany for regular use in Christian worship services, based on Matthew 5-7:

(Worship leader reads the regular print, congregation responds in unison with the bold print)

Leader: Blessed are the spiritually impoverished, and those who mourn, the meek and teachable, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake. Blessed are those who are passionate about justice and right living.

Congregation: Oh, how we love your precepts!

Everyone who harbors anger against another will be liable to judgment; whoever insults another will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that another has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled, and then come and offer your gift.

Oh, how we love your precepts!

Everyone who looks at another with lustful intent has already committed adultery in his or her heart. So if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

Oh, how we love your precepts!

It has been said, ‘Whoever divorces another, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say that everyone who divorces another except on the ground of sexual immorality … commits adultery.

Oh, how we love your precepts!

Never use an oath. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Oh, how we love your precepts!

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist someone who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone sues you and takes your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if someone forces you to carry something one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Oh, how we love your precepts!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be known as children of your Father in heaven. For God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Oh, how we love your precepts!

Beware of doing your good deeds before others in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father in heaven… When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret…. And when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Oh, how we love your precepts!

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

 

Oh, how we love your precepts!

Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ Unbelievers seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and God’s justice and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Oh, how we love your precepts!

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in another’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own? Or how can you say to another, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of another’s eye.

Oh, how we love your precepts!

Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Oh, how we love your precepts!

Harvey Yoder is an ordained pastor and member of Family of Hope, a small Virginia Mennonite Conference house church congregation. He blogs at Harvspot, where this first appeared.


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  • Gary Hill

    Oh Ya! I am going to check out this person’s blog )