“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
We might think of our struggle against sin as a completely internal affair. Hebrews 12:3-4 suggests that there is an external component to it. The hostility we endure from sinners is part of our own struggle against sin. It isn’t hard to see why: the hostility from sinners triggers a guttural, visceral pride response in us, and pride is the root of all sin.
Think of any time you were slighted and how you responded to it. This is what the hostility of sinners triggers within us. We want to fight back. We want to return insult for insult. We want to defend our honor. We want vindication. We might even want vengeance.
In this passage, though, we are exhorted to look to Jesus who resisted sin to the point of actually shedding his own blood. We are reminded by the that we have not yet resisted to the point of shutting our own blood. It isn’t resisting sinners, but resistong sin, that is the key point here.
Gandhi once said something to the effect that Christians will not make a dent in India until the Sermon on the Mount becomes part of their creed. Gandhi saw what many modern skeptics see, which is a gap between the Christian proclamation and testimony and how those same Christians live their lives.
If we are followers of Christ, shouldn’t we model what Jesus preached?
Where will Christians stand in history as we look back? Some would say we were on the wrong side of slavery, the Holocaust and Apartheid, but Christians were most definitely on the right side of each of those evils – at least, some might say, the real followers of Christ.…
In the Sermon on the Mount (where Jesus spoke to His disciples, not the crowds that also followed Him) a couple of the subjects that Jesus addressed seem contradictory at first blush. They both relate on the surface to the way we act in public, before other people. He said, on the one hand:
You are the lightof the world…. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may seeyour goodworks, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14, 16)
Jesus, on the other hand, gave the following negative instruction:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
Jesus went on to provide the following examples:
“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:2-6)
How do we let our light shine before men without practicing our righteousness before men?
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountain. The disciples followed and gathered around Him when He sat down. So began the Sermon on the Mount.
Though the text does not clearly say, I believe it was just Jesus and the disciples on the mountain. Jesus was sitting, and the disciples were around Him. there was no room for the crowds to gather, and they could not hear Him as He sat with the disciples around Him.
The Sermon on the Mount, therefore, was not for the crowds, but for the followers of Jesus.