Hell is not my neighbour- 1st Week of Lent- Saturday-Matthew 5: 43-48
So Jesus’ run in with the Pharisees continues. It was the Pharisees who interpreted the Torah for four hundred years, in the absence of the prophets, unto the time of Jesus. In their zeal to be mediators between God and man, they got the law wrong and the spirit completely wrong. For Jesus the law was the lowest common denominator. His expectation from a Christian was always, more! And so Matthew chapter 5 plays out these six hyper theses, the call for more! Today’s Gospel plays out the last of the six hyper theses.
The Pharisees had interpreted the law concerning ones relationship with regard to neighbours and enemies in the most conveniently contrived way. They mandated that one was to love ones neighbour and hate ones enemy. Interestingly, the ‘popular quote’ interpreted by the Pharisees and lived by the Jews, was itself, an incomplete presentation of what the law really said.
Leviticus 19:18, the source of this ‘popular saying’ on neighbours and enemies actually called for the love of neighbour to be in the same measure as one loved oneself, a section conveniently omitted by the Pharisees. Further, there was no reference, anywhere in the law, about hating ones enemy; again an addition brought in by the Pharisees. So the Pharisees had done a very convenient cut and paste job.
So what was the agenda of the Pharisees? Why mislead the people with half-truths? In limiting love to one’s neighbour, the Pharisees effectively limited the understanding of ones neighbour only to a fellow Jew and by doing that they officially signalled that all non-Jews were the enemy, who could be hated. This was nothing but state sponsored hate.
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