March 14th

By Travis Frampton

A couple of years ago I was flipping through TV channels when something on

C-Span caught my attention. Two lawyers were debating whether the Ten Commandments should be posted in federal and state court houses. The debate was lively. Both sides exchanged compelling arguments. But, as I sat there enthralled by their discussion, I thought it odd for two Christians to be so vehemently debating Old Testament law. Why were these commandments the center of such controversy between two Christians?

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount came to mind, particularly a couple of verses from the Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:7, 9). Jesus goes on to say: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. … If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-45a, 46-47).

I imagine verses about showing mercy and being a peacemaker would not go over well in most American courthouses today. Can you imagine plaintiffs loving defendants or defendants loving plaintiffs? The Sermon on the Mount provides a new way of understanding the requirements of the Law. Instead of beginning with the Ten Commandments like Moses did in his sermon in Deuteronomy, Jesus opens his sermon with the beatitudes.

Sometimes I like it when people get what they deserve, especially if they have wronged me in some way. I rejoice when my enemies are defeated, when those who curse me are cursed, and when those who bless me are blessed. The teachings of Jesus, however, run counter to these sentiments of mine. His Sermon on the Mount challenges me to change my ways.

Revenge is not justice; it only satisfies our desire to get back those who have wronged us. Revenge may even feel good at times, but it is never fulfilling. It never brings about justice, because it never seeks reconciliation.

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