Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Higher Standard

The second half of the fifth chapter in Matthew's Gospel today has Jesus in a series of teachings using the "you have heard that it was said...but I say to you..." formula. This repetition reinforces the idea that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to a higher standard.
Take the first of these examples, pertaining to the fifth commandment - You shall not kill. Now, there is an intrinsic understanding in all human beings that killing another person is wrong. You do not have to be a believer in God to see the truth in this statement. But for followers of Christ, it is not enough. We are called to avoid anger. Now, for almost every person, avoiding killing is easy. Avoiding anger, however, is not. But the great thing is that, as followers of Christ we are not left without help. God gives us grace - the strength to rise to this higher standard. We may not always do it perfectly, but if we never have a high ideal, to what can we aspire?
That is why, as people of faith, we need to pay attention to these teachings. Being a disciple means doing more than just the minimum. We are called to go above and beyond, with the bar set much higher for our behavior. The Lord gives a few examples here, but each of us needs to look into our lives and try to see the higher standard that God sets for us. We have the example of Christ as our guide. He was never satisfied with doing the minimum. And so, if we are trying to follow Him, we also need to do a lot more than the minimum. Our ideal is set by Christ Himself. And if we try each day to strive for that higher standard, we will become more and more like Christ and fulfill the high destiny that God has in mind for each of us.

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