In Matthew 5:31-48, Jesus reveals the marks or characteristics of Kingdom people. People journeying along the King’s Highway are called to live life differently from the rest of the world. New kingdom people are recognized by four things:
- Live up to your word
- Lavish grace
- Love extravagantly
- Live by the Spirit
Jesus is essentially saying, “You’ve heard it said this way from man. Now hear it straight from God. I’m telling you something different.” He’s contrasting worldy, self-centered kingdoms with His New Kingdom. Jesus is not speaking as someone appealing to authority. He is the authority. He is God Himself, and He is telling us, His Kingdom people, how we must live.
When Jesus discusses divorce in the Sermon on the Mount in verse 31, he’s actually narrowing the reasons for divorce. The scribes and Pharisees were abusing the Mosaic law and excusing divorces for any reason. They were assaulting and abusing the institution of marriage that God created. Things really aren’t so different two thousand years later are they? Marriage is still under assault. Our culture wants to redefine the definition of marriage. But that’s not our right. The Creator of the universe instituted it, and our mission is to nurture and protect marriage. We are to act as salt in preserving the institution and as light in illuminating the beauty of marriage and how it is a picture of God’s relationship with us, His bride, His church-community.
Jesus reaffirms the importance of the marriage covenant. He allows it in the circumstance that a spouse is harmed by adultery. But Jesus is not commanding divorce. Quite the contrary. He hates divorce. Our King wants us to pursue reconciliation unless the husband or wife is unrepentant and intent on destroying the marriage covenant through continuous adultery. The King commands us to live up to our word and our commitments. To walk our talk.
In verse 33, Jesus addresses oaths. The Pharisees had created this ridiculous hierarchy of oaths. An oath to heaven was considered more binding than an oath to earth for example. They created this system to deceive people. It’s like they were swearing the truthfulness of something while crossing their fingers behind their backs.
Jesus used hyperbole when he says don’t swear oaths. He reminds his disciples, “If you swear by Heaven, that’s where my throne is. If you swear by earth, that’s my footstool. You wanna swear by Jerusalem, that’s my capital city. You swear by your head—look guys, you can’t even change the color of your hair. Take it from me, the King of the Universe. This is your King speaking. Listen. Just let your yes be yes and your no be no.” What Jesus is saying is, “My Kingdom people should be so honest and upright in their conversations and commitments, that they have instant credibility when they affirm the truthfulness of something.” Kingdom people don’t play shady word games. They give it to you straight. And their names are to be associated with integrity.
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches (Proverbs 22:1).” History remembers Cortes badly–as a greedy conquistador who broke his word. In contrast, Kingdom people are known by their good names. They strive to keep their commitments, and live up to their word in their marriages and in their relationships.
We’ll look at the other marks of Kingdom people in the coming days.