This was inspired by the previous post.
Under the law, it was bad to murder and to commit adultery. The Jesus came along and said we shouldn’t even hate our brother for no reason—or look at someone else lustfully.
Did Jesus say these things simply to raise the bar a bit on our moral behavior? Did He want us to go from being Pharisees who could consider ourselves morally righteous because we didn’t murder anyone or have sex outside of marriage to Christians who could consider ourselves morally righteous because we didn’t hate anyone with no reason at all or look at someone else with real serious lust in our hearts?
I doubt it. First of all, Jesus doesn’t say “I set the bar here—and no higher.” On the contrary, it seems that He is always willing to set the bar as high as He has to to make His point. In fact, when He encounters someone who claims to have kept the whole law, He sets the bar to the ultimate extreme, far beyond anything the law even hints at. He tells this person to give everything he has to the poor.
In other words, Jesus is setting the bar at the God level. He says as much when He tells the one who comes to Him “There is only one who is good, and that is God.”
Did Jesus point to His own moral perfection as the ultimate standard of goodness to condemn us or simply make us feel guilty? I doubt this as well. He plainly tells us that He did not come to condemn or to judge, but to save. So what could His purpose be?
I think it might be reasonable to suggest that He is calling sinners to repent. He is letting us know we are sick and we need a doctor. Even our noblest deeds are as filthy rags compared to the purity of benevolent, selfless love that we find in the divine order of things. Any hope we might have that our obedience to some set of rules we extract with tweezers from scripture will bring about our redemption is a feeble one. We will always make rules to suit ourselves. And we will always break them anyway.
There are no rules strict enough to form us into what God originally intended us to be: His own children in His own image and likeness. For that, we need Him. We need His life in us. We need Him to breathe on us, to breathe His nature into us. This is, after all, what He did when He first made us in the garden. And it is again what He does to His disciples when He gives them the Holy Spirit after His death and resurrection.
He Himself is the way and the life. Not rules or commandments—which, though useful as indicators of our sanctification can never be the agency by which that sanctification occurs. We need Him to transform us, to re-order us. By this re-ordering, we become righteous in a way that transcends mere rule-keeping. We become as Him.
He call us to Himself, because in Him alone is our redemption. And He is sure and faithful to perform it for His own Name’s sake. Hallelujah.