Jesus raises the bar.
He ups the ante.
He raises the standard of evaluation as far as sin goes.
What constitutes sin? How do we know when we’ve sinned?
In the Old Testament Torah, the measure was external: a person’s actions, a person’s words.
What a person did or did not do….observable behavior:
- what could be seen and heard.
- what could be verified by witnesses.
Murder could be seen. Not keeping the Sabbath…the line was drawn rather precisely.
Lying, cheating, stealing…these could be confirmed with external proof.
That was the old way. It served its purpose.
Jesus, however, brings a new way. He establishes a new standard of measurement.
He teaches that sin begins, that sin exists, long before any external manifestation.
Sin begins in a person’s heart long before there are any external signs.
It germinates with one thought of ill will or hostility or conflict.
It takes root with a bad feeling, a negative sensation.
Sin comes into existence at the moment of initial inner discord,
as quick as a thought of antagonism or disaffection.
According to terminology used by modern-day psychology, sin begins in the unconscious,
outside of the awareness of a person.
It soon starts affecting human thought and emotion, human feeling.
Eventually a person begins responding to what’s going on internally.
And if an effort isn’t made to counteract the emerging sin,
thoughts and feelings begin triggering sinful desires and intentions.
All this happens before a sinful word is spoken, or a sinful act takes place.
Jesus teaches that if you want to be truly free of sin,
you have to look into your heart and mind and soul…
that if you want to rid your life of sin
you must change the way that you think and the way you feel.
There is one way to prevent sin from tainting the human heart: love!
Temptation will always be a reality.
But if you want guard your heart and mind against sin
you must fill your heart and mind with love.
You must foster loving thoughts and loving feelings.
Anything less than a loving heart and a loving mind will be prone to sin.
Our every encounter with another person, with any other person,
needs to be set in the terms of friend, not enemy.
As soon as thoughts or feelings that are not based in and on love arise anywhere inside of us,
sin has entered the building.
And all sin is liable to judgment.
Today’s prayer: “Help us, O Lord, to be people of good will and genuine affection. Help us to be well-minded with regards to all our neighbors. May our celebration of the Passion of Jesus Your Son this Lent help us to grow in love. Amen!”
1st Week of Lent
Jesus raises the bar.