This Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 5: 17-37) is a challenge – even here in Honduras.
Jesus is warning us that it’s not only a sin to kill but we must recognize the ways we sin with our tongues and with our hearts.
That’s tough. There is so much polarization in our society that we despise those who think different from us and denigrate them.
But I think it is even more challenging to speak about another part of the Gospel, especially in the United States.
Jesus is also warning us that adultery, infidelity, is sinful, but even more “anyone who looks on a woman with lust in his heart has already committed adultery.” (Matthew 5: 28)
In light of the sex abuse crisis in the church and the blatant denigrating references to women by political leaders, these words are a challenge – and are likely to arouse strong emotions.
But, if I were to preach I would cite the example of a former president, Jimmy Carter. Though I think his foreign policy in relation to Iran and El Salvador were thoroughly flawed, he was a man of integrity.
During his presidential campaign in 1976 Jimmy Carter gave an interview to Playboy, the notorious light porn magazine. Maybe it was imprudent to do this but responding to one query, he said, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”
Some were scandalized and predicted it would affect his chances of being elected.
But looking back – especially in light of the sexual exploits of some religious and political leaders, his candor is refreshing.
But even more, it calls us to examine how we men relate to women and to all others. Do we lust after them? Or do we treat them as our sisters and brothers?
In our highly-sexualized society, we could imitate former President Carter and examine our conscience – not just in regard to our attitude and actions with women but with our attitudes to violence and to those perceived as enemies.
It is so easy to hide behind legalisms – I never killed anyone; I never raped anyone; I never committed adultery.
But have we sought to have a pure heart, a heart filled with love and respect, filled with the love of a God who called us to love even our enemies?
That’s a challenge.