Jesus didn’t cancel the Ten Commandments. They are still the spine on which all our morality stands.
Jesus completed the Ten Commandments. If the Ten Commandments, the thou shalt nots, are the spine on which morality stands, then the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes are the arms, legs, and beating heart of that morality.
You cannot follow Jesus and ignore everything He taught and said. You cannot label the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount as “impractical liberalism” and claim that you are a follower of the Carpenter from Nazareth.
You cannot deliberately — and with a great deal of malice, I might add — use your selfishness and hardness of heart as justification for doing the exact opposite of what Jesus commanded and be His follower. No matter how many times you go to mass, how frequently you confess, how much you proclaim His name, you will not see heaven if you turn your back on Him when He is standing right in front of you in human disguise.
Even if you acknowledge the Ten Commandments, you will not see heaven by following them. That’s because you will fail in following them. And when you do, the only hope you have is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Your hope of salvation is in following Christ, loving Christ, and obeying Christ. Do not be so stupid as to think that your righteousness will open the gates of heaven for you. It won’t.
The sacraments of the Church are real and powerful conduits of grace. But they will not, in and of themselves, get you to heaven. There is One Way, and that is Jesus Christ.
My pastor says that when we die, someone will say to us You belong to me. The question is, who will say that.
You are the one who decides. You chose who will say You belong to me. You decide now, in this life. You get to pick, one side or the other. God sets before us life and death, follow Jesus or follow the little g gods of this world. You chose. But you make your choice with what you do, not with what you say.
You can hire a mountaineering tour guide to lead you up Mt Everest and proclaim Jesus from there. You can posture and parade your faith down every street. You can attack your friends and people you don’t even know on the internet for all their failings as Christians. You can do christ-free-all-about-me christian to the max.
And Jesus will say You turned me away, ignored me and left me to suffer. I don’t know you.
He made it absolutely clear that He is a living reality in our lives today. He stands before us in the disguise of other people. He is the aborted baby, lying in the trash. He is the old lady with dementia, wandering in the fog. He is desperate people in cages on the border. He is rape victims who are disbelieved and turned away and punished for “asking for it.” He is the prostitute walking the streets while her pimp watches from the corner, ready to beat her up if she asks for help. He is the cancer victim who can’t afford pain meds, the amputee with no money for a prosthesis. He is the victim of your gossip and malicious lying. He is all suffering human beings.
You will never see heaven if you turn your back on Jesus now in this life. I say that because He said it. He said it as clearly as He could.
You can become a monster and tell yourself that you are a good Christian. All it takes is pride and a false idol made of the substance of this world.
“If you will fall down and worship me, I will give you all the kingdoms of this world,” satan tried to tempt Jesus with this. Jesus didn’t simply wave satan away, tell him to be gone. Jesus answered as we have to, with faith and Scripture. It is written, worship the Lord your God, and Him only, He said.
What does that mean to us? I believe that the best worship is obedience. Without obedience to God, no other worship really matters. We must obey God, even when it means being doing the stupid and impractical thing. We must obey God even when it costs us. We must obey God even when all our friends go a different way. We must obey God.Obeying God is following Jesus.
Jesus completed the Ten Commandments. He didn’t cancel them. Lying is still a sin, as is adultery, greed, (or as Scripture calls it, coveting), theft, worshipping false idols, dishonoring the sabbath, making idols, ignoring your elderly parents, and failing to honor God.
But the Beatitudes give us more. The Beatitudes don’t threaten us with hell. They promise us heaven. They don’t just bless us, they say we are blessed.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, Jesus said. Do you know, really know, how completely abject you are without God? Do you understand that your righteousness is as useless as a filthy rag? Do you know all the way through yourself that when you rely on your own devising and your own good deeds, you are so sinful and lost that only looking to the Son of God, lifted up on a cross, can save you? Do you understand the cost of your salvation? The poor in spirit know and see their own sin in sorrow and humility. They fall to their knees in gratitude before the Cross.
Blessed are those who mourn, Jesus said. When you see suffering and hurt people, do you feel sorrow, or are you indifferent? Do you blame people for getting themselves into their troubles, or do you feel compassion for them and want to help them find a way out? Do you mourn for the sorrows of anyone but yourself? Those who mourn look on Jesus when He stands in front them disguised as a suffering human being and they love Him and want to help Him.
Blessed are the meek, Jesus said. Being an American can become the antithesis of this Beatitude. We are taught from birth that our destiny is in our hands, that we can be anything we want to be, do anything we want to do. This is based on the fact that America incorporated the Christian value of the worth of individual human beings into our founding documents and laws. But it can work against being what Jesus meant when He said Blessed are the meek. Do you enjoy the rush of power that comes with pushing people around? Do you feel satisfaction when you bend someone to your will? Does it make you feel powerful when you yell and other people fall back in fear? Notice that there is a difference between pushing yourself and pushing others. Studying long hours to make an “A” doesn’t of itself make you grandiose. Running an extra mile isn’t the same thing as bragging and demeaning someone else’s run. Putting your best foot forward in a job interview can be objective truth. Athleticism, scholarship and career can all become sources of sin if they become the idols of your life. Meekness in the Beatitude sense is gentleness, kindness and tenderness toward other people. It is thinking of others instead of always focusing on yourself.
The only way to battle monsters without becoming a monster is to wrap your life in the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. Then Ten Commandments are still in force. But they will not protect you by themselves. The Ten Commandments are absolute rules and guideposts that lead you, by way of your sinfulness, to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.
If you are honest with yourself about your own sins, if you allow yourself to see how you really stack up before God, then you will become poor in spirit in the Jesus sense. If you love Jesus, He will let you see Himself in the suffering people around you. If you see that, you will feel their pain and you will mourn in the way of the Beatitude.
If you realize your own sinfulness and see how much you owe to Jesus, if you love Him and see Him in suffering people, gentleness, kindness, tenderness will open springs in your heart and begin to flow through you. You will begin to become meek.
The Beatitudes lead you away from the Abyss, so that you don’t have to look into it at all. You cannot be a monster if you live the Beatitudes. It is not possible.
You must follow Jesus to see heaven. That means you must follow the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. You must hunger and thirst for righteousness.
I’m running out of space again, so I’ll take this up tomorrow. I have no idea how many installments this will have by the time I finish. I do think it’s part of why I’m writing again. I’m changing the title to Following Jesus. Read Chapter Six tomorrow.
Note: I am not a theologian or Bible scholar. I am a pew-sitting, Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, pro life Catholic grandma. Nothing more. These are my reflections. They come from prayer and my own sufferings and walk with Christ.