The Sermon on the Mount as Formative of a Counter-Cultural Kingdom (Preston Sprinkle)

Jesus sought to establish a counter-cultural … kingdom whose citizens would embody a not-of-this-world reign over the earth. And on one Galilean afternoon, King Jesus sat down to tell His followers what this unconventional kingdom would look like [Matthew 5-7, the so-called Sermon on the Mount]. …

[T]he Sermon is intended to reconfigure God’s new community, to mold His people into a visibly different kingdom in the face of all other imposter kingdoms… —a public display of a different way (Matt. 5:13–14 [v.16]). The Sermon’s instructions are designed to be very different, communal, visible; they attract attention, cause bewilderment, and showcase the missional heart of the King. …

The Sermon … is the ‘definitive charter for the life of the new covenant community,’ and through it Jesus seeks to sculpt counter-cultural masterpieces—citizens of the great King—to embody a different society and disclose a different God. We should expect these instructions to jar our thinking, challenge our desires, and contradict normality—the way we usually do things around here. If you’re ‘of the world,’ the Sermon will seem outlandish and impractical. …

When we are wronged, we forgive; when we have money, we give; when we don’t have money, we give; when we give, we don’t flaunt it; when we fast, we smile; when we need food and clothing and the bank account is dry, we don’t worry like the rest of the world. Instead, we pray.

… Jesus calls His followers to a different way, a subversive kingdom. …

The Sermon on the Mount constitutes Jesus’s radical kingdom ethic. Heads will turn as we turn our cheeks. Our inexplicable behavior will call attention to our inexplicable God. Light will beam across our dark world as we love the spouses who don’t love us back, keep our word when it hurts, judge ourselves rather than others, and—most shockingly—love our enemies who are harming us. When we are cursed, we bless. When we are hated, we love. When we are robbed, we give. And when we are struck, we don’t strike back with violence. A person who chooses to love his or her enemies can have no enemies. That person is left only with neighbors.

~ Preston Sprinkle, Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence

What’s Wrong with Swearing Oaths? (Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12)

Why is swearing a roadblock to honesty? What is the problem with swearing oaths (Mt 5:33-37; Js 5:12)?

Oaths divide speech into two camps — honest speech, and less honest speech.

It is not that the oath is in itself wrong, but that it divides speech into two levels. Some statements are sworn to and thus must be true, while others are just normal speech and may not be. … Oaths are dangerous, for they make some speech more honest than other speech. (Peter Davids)

As such, to use an oath (or to swear) is to admit that you are someone who is normally dishonest, someone who can’t be trusted. It is an admission that, outside of using oaths, you are a less than trustworthy person, that your commitment to truth is suspect and needs to be buttressed and strengthened. Oaths are only needed because your speech is unreliable.

Swearing (i.e., oath-taking) is really a pathetic confession of our own dishonesty. Why do we find it necessary to introduce our promises by some tremendous formula? … The only reason is that we know our simple word is not likely to be trusted. (John Stott)

Oaths seems to imply that some speech is more lax and less serious with regards to honesty. The use of oaths implicitly downgrades the expectations for honesty elsewhere. But we are a people who believe that all speech is binding — we are held accountable for the integrity all of our speech, not just sworn speech.

Thus, as people who are called to absolute honesty, swearing and oaths should have no place among Christians. Our commitment to truth should be so consistent and dependable that there is no need for us to buttress our speech with swearing or taking oaths. Our plain speech is good enough. It’s trustworthy as it is.

An Integrity That Needs No Oaths (James 5:12)

An Integrity That Needs No Oaths (James 5:12)
South City Church
January 22, 2017

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See all sermons from this series on James.