When we see wicked people entering troubling times we should not fear – and neither should we gloat. We should simply take comfort in God, knowing that all will be well and that the fate of the wicked is not the fate we, God’s children, will face.
Dear God, I thank you that I can have total comfort in you. Lord, in times where the wicked are experiencing storms and trouble, may my heart be still. I know that the fate of the wicked is not a fate I will face. I also pray that in these times, may they be compelled to repent of their wicked ways. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
“Social Justice Jesus” has always existed. Faithful followers of Christ have always seen their Lord as a defender of the weak and oppressed—the helper of those in need of help. Likewise, the true followers of Christ have always responded to their Lord’s call to duty to address disparities and injustice wherever they find them. For these faithful servants, social actions are not seen as works of salvation but as fulfillments of the tenets of the kingdom of heaven. The pursuit of equity and justice are not only actions requested within the teachings of our Lord, they are duties assigned by our King. As such, they do become part of one’s salvation, because failure to be socially responsible and active—to love one’s neighbor and even one’s enemy—is grounds for denied entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Nowhere is this more evident than in Jesus’ epic sermon, the “Sermon on the Mount.” Unfortunately, much of modern Christendom believes that this sermon is a remnant of an old covenant and that these epic words of Jesus no longer apply to us. Nothing could be further from the truth, and believing this erroneous deception has been spiritually lethal—both individually and corporately. What a tragedy! What terrible confusion this has produced within Christianity, and what a loss of opportunity for the Christian church! This is why I have written “Social Justice Jesus.” Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in the Gospels, is a manifesto of the kingdom of heaven. It is a guide to how the followers of Christ are to live their lives. Within this sermon, Jesus indicates multiple times that his words—his instructions to his followers—remain valid far into the future, and that they are the pathway to current blessings and eternal life. Following them is faith in Jesus. Christians need to correctly understand this. Jesus’ words shape the proper influence and impact that Christianity is to have on earth. Their implementation brings the peace of heaven to earth—a major objective of the kingdom of God. Failing to implement his words would be a form of taking God’s name in vain—claiming to be a child of God but living as if one were free of the duties God desires us to perform. Calling oneself a Christian but failing to follow Jesus’ words is a misrepresentation of Jesus’ mission on earth, the nature of the kingdom of heaven, and God’s character. Many Christians have always intuitively understood their role as followers of Christ and have been active in the duties he has assigned. The words of their king are not taken lightly. The Sermon on the Mount greatly influences their lives. I know, because it has greatly influenced me. It has helped me see the value of every human life and has encouraged me to be active in service to others. It helped direct the course of my academic studies. It took me to Africa for seven years, where I helped meet the needs of war-displaced refugees and thirsty nomads. Jesus’ sermon has been the material of many of my Bible study classes and the topic of multiple sermons of my own. Jesus’ epic sermon is not a relic of the past. Correctly understood, it is a guide to Christian living. And the life he is directing us to live is exciting! This is what I want to share with you. For well over two decades, I have been studying Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, collecting thoughts, jotting down notes, thinking, and rethinking its applications, and trying to see how each theme connects to the previous topic. When I began, I had preconceived ideas of what Jesus was trying to say, but I wanted to dig deeper into every word. Jesus gave us a clue that his sermon was the fulfillment of God’s Law and Prophets. This means that his words are built upon past teachings. So, I took key words from within his sermon and tracked their usage in the Old Testament. For example: what is the meaning of someone who is “pure in heart”? Who are they? What do they believe? How do they live? Initially, I believed I knew the answers to these questions, but as I dug deeper into the Word of God, the revelations that I discovered took me in a direction I did not originally expect, and Social Justice Jesus began to take shape. These new discoveries profoundly called into question my own commitment to Christ. Was I really following him? Does he expect more from me than I have been giving? And if so, how do I put into action his request? My journey into God’s word was a revelation to me, and I anticipate that what I am about to share will be a revelation to you as well. On December 31, 2019, I made a New Year’s resolution to put my research and knowledge to paper in the form of a book. I have written other books of a technical nature; they were tedious but not difficult to compile. I anticipated, however, that this book would be do they live? Initially, I believed I knew the answers to these questions, but as I dug deeper into the Word of God, the revelations that I discovered took me in a direction I did not originally expect, and Social Justice Jesus began to take shape. These new discoveries profoundly called into question my own commitment to Christ. Was I really following him? Does he expect more from me than I have been giving? And if so, how do I put into action his request? My journey into God’s word was a revelation to me, and I anticipate that what I am about to share will be a revelation to you as well. On December 31, 2019, I made a New Year’s resolution to put my research and knowledge to paper in the form of a book. I have written other books of a technical nature; they were tedious but not difficult to compile. I anticipated, however, that this book would be harder to complete. It would require more effort to organize and convey my knowledge and insights, and would be controversial to many Christians, but I felt I had to do it. I work full-time, so on weekends and evenings, when I had the time and strength, I attempted to write. Early on, it was slow going. Writing requires large chunks of time and mental energy, where one wrestles to analyze thoughts, and tries to conceive the best way to communicate ideas. By mid-March I had only completed two chapters, and I realized that fulfilling my New Year’s resolution was going to take an exceedingly long time. Then suddenly and unexpectedly, the world was hit with a new coronavirus. My employer deemed me nonessential and sent me home for weeks. The government told me to stay home and shelter-in-place. By a strange turn of tragic events, I suddenly had time on my hands. I knew what God wanted me to do, and I felt an urgency to complete the task. So, I began to write, and this book began to take shape in ways that have surprised even me. Then, amid this world tragedy, multiple social injustices became public, and people around the globe began to cry out for justice with a fervor that has seldom been acknowledged in recent generations. Their cries should be heard and evaluated. Injustices need to be corrected. There is, however, a danger that the pendulum will be swung to its opposite extreme, and one set of injustices will be substituted with another set. What needs to occur is a stopping of the pendulum altogether. Society needs to see all humanity as the creation of God, and it must value every life. Without justice for all, injustice will always exist. True justice, however, requires a true standard, and we have a standard presented to us in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Social justice and equity are dominant themes within the message of Jesus as found in the Sermon on the Mount. However, Jesus teaches that justice and mercy go hand in hand; correcting society’s failures requires action, but it also requires forgiveness. This is a message that many do not want to hear, but for Christians it is the Word of our King. Throughout my studies over the years, and while writing this book, I have often lamented the fact that if we Christians had taken Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount literally, we would have had nearly two thousand years of leading the cause of social justice and equity, peace and love, to all the world. Where would the world be today if Christians, past and present, fully understood Jesus’ words and diligently applied them? The world’s social and equity disparities may have already been corrected by the actions of Christ’s followers. The unrest we see today may never have been. Only the God of heaven knows for sure. What I know is that the Sermon on the Mount is an indispensable part of Jesus’ gospel—it is God’s word—and it too is to be preached to all the world. It is my hope that as you read this book, you will see clearly what Jesus was trying to communicate to us that day on the mountainside. It is my hope that you will be surprised and convinced by what Jesus still has to say to us today. It is my hope that you will see its universal and eternal application. And finally, it is my hope that you will accept the themes of his message and become a devoted follower; putting his words into ction and helping to build his kingdom of heaven here on earth.
I had accepted a volunteer position to help participate in famine relief efforts in one of Africa’s poorest nations. It was something I had longed to do for many years, and now, God had granted me the opportunity to serve him through service to others. Since I was a child, I intuitively knew that being a Christian required that we do what we can to help others in need. This is one of Christ’s predominant messages throughout the Gospels. It is the message in the parable of the sheep and the goats, and the main theme of Jesus’ epic Sermon on the Mount. It was this desire to be of service that led me to study theology, which eventually morphed into a degree in international development. I had envisioned myself working as an agricultural developer in Central or South America. Instead, after graduation, I landed a job at an agricultural research facility in Barstow. It was the perfect place to prepare for where God was about to send me, though I did not know it at the time. It was early August when I received a surprise phone call from a Christian international relief organization that had previously rejected my request for employment. Africa was in trouble; a severe famine had reached a crisis point, and the world was responding by sending food. The relief organization needed coordinators in place, and they needed them fast. Would I be interested in participating as a volunteer for three months? I was! So, It was a leap of faith, but I knew this was the Lord’s work, and I was willing to give it a try.
Now, I am working on a fundraiser to help build human trafficking safe houses in America. I could only hope and pray to God that he would be with me and guide me for the next three months. Little did I know that this poor, war-torn nation, plagued with social injustices and racial and religious. misunderstandings, was going to be my home for the next seven years. In today’s world, the pursuit of equity within all sectors of society is known as “social justice.” Social justice has many definitions, and its application means different things to different groups, but essentially it is the philosophical theory which asserts that there are dimensions of fairness—justice—that go beyond those embodied in the principles of civil or criminal law, which themselves can be unjust. It looks to correct disparities that are perceived to exist in the communal distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges. It seeks to treat all people with equality, fairness, and dignity. Social justice advocates can be viewed as heroes or terrorists, depending on their actions, underwith social injustices and racial and religious misunderstandings, was going to be my home for the next seven years. In today’s world, the pursuit of equity within all sectors of society is known as “social justice.”
Lying motives, and who they represent or who feels championed or threatened by them. Our whole world is divided by many political ideologies, races, cultures, and spiritual paradigms, and anyone who advocates a change to someone’s norm is open to suspicion and initial resistance. And rightly so. A change advocated by one, can be the violation of another’s sacred beliefs—a violation of their moral standards and taboos. Take, for example, the fight for marriage between same-sex couples, or the right for the terminally ill to end their lives. While some calls for justice will remain hotbeds of controversy, other battles for “justice” are eventually accepted and no longer questioned—like the right for women to vote. This book is written primarily for a Christian audience, so certain assumptions are made regarding the mindset of my readers. How However, the teachings of Jesus hold value to anyone, Christian or non-Christian, and what I have to present should be of interest to those who wish to study how Jesus interpreted the Mosaic Laws, and how he applied them to the social deficiencies of his time and to ours. There are limits, however, to how far Christians can use Jesus’ message. The gospel messages, for example, cannot be used to extrapolate a position on the legalization of cannabis, or to gain insight on whether an electric car is good or bad for the environment. There are some things we must figure out on our own. “Social justice”, as referred to in this book, will be presented within the context of Jesus’ time and culture, and to how he advocated for a greater compliance with God’s fairness toward all sectors of his society. Jesus saw the law of God being incorrectly folfollowed, and part of his ministry was to correct its misapplications. Jesus preached social justice, but he preached it within the context of his time and the laws of Moses that governed his community. Does this mean that Jesus’ teachings are irrelevant to our present age? No, far from it! His teachings address social issues that are still plaguing us today, and his wisdom gives us valid solutions to these problems. So, the social justice teachings of Jesus are timeless and still relevant to anyone who wishes to be a part of his kingdom of heaven. This book will focus on the teachings of Jesus as found in the Sermon on the Mount. Early in my Christian walk, I rarely considered Jesus to be the consummate social justice leader, but his equity themes became more and more apparent as my studies into this epic sermon deepened. They took me in directions that made it impossible for me to ignore Jesus’ repeated social justice themes. The context of his sermon is a revelation of the nature of a kingdom of heaven forming in his time—not just a future kingdom. It is a kingdom to be put into action, now, by those who hear him. Kingdoms have manifestos—policies and principles to be followed. These are formed for the good of their communities. The Sermon on the Mount is a manifesto outlining Jesus’ revelation of God’s law in action. Social justice and social equity are major themes of that law, given for the good of all who live on this earth. Much has been written about Jesus’ epic Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospels. It is a sermon that has fascinated me since I was a child, partly because, unlike other parts of the Bible that I have found difficult to understand, this sermon was understandable. Its concepts seemed straight-forward, and I could see the logic of applying its principles to my everyday life. However, as a child, I did fail to comprehend the broader applications of Jesus’ message. I did not fully understand the context of the sermon or see how Jesus’ words were often a rebuttal to the teachings of his day. I missed the way in which this sermon reframed the Old Testament Law and the Prophets in easy-to-understand terms. I missed that Jesus essentially declares himself to be the “prophet” promised by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15–19. I missed that he puts his words, uttered that day, on par with the Law and the Prophets, and declares that his words, if obeyed, lead to safety and eternal life. As a child, I also missed the fact that this sermon is about what Jesus calls the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith,”1 which Jesus says are not to be neglected. However, as I grew older and studied this sermon in depth, I began to see that its message is indeed the law of God, and its focus is the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. It is a message calling for social justice and “equity,” a word often used to define “righteousness.” It is a message that calls disciples to take equitable actions, now, to begin the kingdom of heaven in their lives, for the benefit of themselves and for all who live on this earth. It is a message that has a cost to those who practice it, but calls for its disciples to have faith that God the Father will provide for their needs as they pay the price of implementing this kingdom in their lives. Surprised? Yes, you should be surprised if no one has told you this before! It is sad that what is probably the most straight-forward aspect of Jesus’ message is the one most often miscomprehended or ignored. Perhaps this is because our religious leaders over-spiritualize Jesus’ teachings. For example, pastors often take the beatitudes and frame them in terms of future benefits to members of God’s kingdom. In so doing, they miss the immediate calls to action and the current benefits that Jesus is presenting to those who act now. And these benefits are not for followers only; they are for the blessing of all humanity. Perhaps today’s “faith alone” Christians find the works-oriented themes of the Sermon on the Mount too divergent from their mainstream Christian paradigms. Maybe the face value of Jesus’ message is considered too radical or impossible to follow.
Rest assured, this sermon was radical even in Jesus’ day. Shortly into his equity message, Jesus has to detour and address his listener’s concerns that what he is saying may be a violation of the Law and the Prophets, as it has been taught to them. Nearly one-third of this sermon is devoted to correcting the misguided instructions that the people have received from their religious leaders. Could it be that we also need similar correction today? Later, Jesus must balance his equity themes with encouragements that living a life of equity is not as hard as listeners might expect. And finally, Matthew’s Gospel records that at the conclusion of Jesus’ teaching, the people were “astonished” by what they had heard and the way in which Jesus presented his message.2 Let me show you what Jesus teaches, and I believe you will be astonished too. The logic and structure of his social justice and equity message will become remarkably clear. His message is brilliant. If taken literally and acted upon by the whole of our Christian community, Christianity would become a far greater force for good in this world. We would be a government that transcends those of the nations of earth, filling in the needs of humanity where earthly governments fall short. We would be the kingdom of heaven on earth as Jesus intended us to be. The word “intended” is the key point here. The kingdom of heaven works through human agents, and it needs knowledgeable and committed followers working its tenets for the good of humanity. In this article, I will start with some background information concerning the kingdom of heaven and its expected arrival.
This will set the atmosphere within which the people heard the message of Christ. It is important contextual information and will give us vital clues for understanding the themes Jesus will be addressing. Next, we will take an in-depth look at every verse of the Sermon on the Mount. This is not as dry as it might sound. Looking at each verse, comparing it to other parts of the Bible and tracing key words back into the Old Testament, unlocks new insights and revelations—wondrous concepts that are rarely shared in weekend sermons or Sunday School lessons. These new revelations will leave you shaking your head in amazement. I am positive you will have this experience multiple times. The process of this study will be straight-forward as we progress through this sermon from beginning to end. Each new topic or theme will be treated as a separate chapter. Longer chapters will have divisions so you can take breaks in thought and later return to the book as your schedule permits. I do not expect you to read this book in one night. There is too much illuminating information to expose yourself to all at once. Feel free to pace yourself as you like. As you read this book, you will frequently see the use of the word “equity.” This term has often caused confusion for some readers and is mistakenly thought to mean equality or having a financial stake in some sort of property. “Equity” is more than this, and this book draws on one of the word’s alternate means and signifies a quality of being fair or impartial in one’s personal conduct with others. But it is also more than this. The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words from which the Bible derives the English words for right, righteous and righteousness, are often defined using the word “equity.” And the biblical definitions of these three words are matched with the equivalent words of lawful, beneficence, and equitable deeds.3 These latter concepts of doing right, following the law of God, being charitable, fair, and just, on a personal level, are what best define my use of the word “equity.” So, is our Lord and Savior a social justice warrior? After comprehending the Sermon on the Mount, it will become clear that social justice is a tenet that has its origins in heaven. Its principles were set in stone by God and existed before the foundation of the world. However, the disciples of God’s true social justice are not the same as the militant actors that we see in many of today’s secular warriors. Like Jesus, ChrisChristian warriors will seek change and fulfillment of God’s law by way of the same meekness and forgiveness displayed by their king. Like Jesus, they will not only advocate for change, but they themselves will be the solution that is needed. There is a sad note, however. The unfortunate truth may be that the social justice turmoil of our day has arisen due to Christians failing to be the social justice leaders for which Jesus had advocated. The gospel message is about Christ’s death and his forgiveness of our sins. It is also about his resurrection and victory over death, and his ability to grant us eternal life. But as you will soon see, the gospel message is also about the promotion of social justice and equity. All these elements are to be preached to all the world before the end comes. We have been strong in promoting Christ’s grace, but too often deficient in participating in his calls for social responsibility. The participation in the promotion of justice and equity are part of our great commission as faithful Christians. If Christians fail to preach this aspect of the gospel message, we could be in danger of being passed by, as God gives this message to others—to children, or even to the stones to cry out.4 Perhaps this is where we are in history today. As Christians, it is imperative that we understand the full gospel message, and apply every aspect of it to our lives. By Jesus’ own words, it is a matter of life or death. So, I invite you to take a journey with me now, and take a closer look at a literal view of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Look at the information and determine for yourself how Jesus wants the followers of the kingdom of heaven to live. You will be surprised! You will be changed!
Please enjoy this reading. Blessed are those who read and study the Living Word of God, in Jesus name Amen