It may not surprise you to learn that the Church is absolutely not a place in which to do politics. Politics is the art of the possible, where compromise lets you get something close to what you would originally have liked, with as many people on board as possible. Whereas what we see in this morning’s Gospel is something different, Our Lord would seem to be asking the impossible; he presents us with a totally uncompromising picture of what it means to live a Christian life, or in Matthew’s terms, to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no compromise here, and what is required looks completely beyond us – that is, I would suggest, the entire point – it isn’t about what we as human beings can do on our own, but what God can do through us.
Lest we get too disheartened by the rigorous demands of following Jesus, we should remember that what we are dealing with is something of a commentary upon the Beatitudes: Our Lord has called his disciples and explained how he offers a new way to live. He has used a series of contrasts: ‘You have heard it said that … but I say to you …’ He offers the world an alternative community, based on love, and shown most fully in the example, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is his life and death which reconciles us both to God and to one another. To be a Christian is to be part of a community of love, of reconciliation, of freedom from the constraints of a society which says we should act politically, and compromise. In our repentance, our metanoia, our change of mind, we have turned away from sin, anger, adultery, divorce, and become a community of love and forgiveness. We offer the world something different from its own version of law, of justice, and of fairness – we offer something radically different, something which can truly turn the world around.
That is why we should put away our anger with each other before we approach the altar, lest we eat and drink condemnation upon ourselves. If we follow the ways of the world we shall be in danger of hell fire, of turning our back on God, of being cut off from the salvation and reconciliation which Christ brings. What we are undertaking as the body of Christ is nothing less than the radical transformation of human society, without the political compromise which the world would expect or indeed desire.
It’s a big ask, it isn’t for the faint-hearted, and it allows us to see why the message of the Gospel has been ignored or subverted, it’s the sort of message which has caused the death of many in the church. Be we should not be afraid, or scared, or worried, because by living as our Lord requires us people are attracted to the Christian Faith and way of life, it represents a freedom from the conformity of the world around them, a radical true freedom, of love and of the spirit. So then let us live this life that world may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion, and power, now and forever.