Devotional: Living the word

Published 10:59 am Friday, February 24, 2023

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“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times…” — Matthew 5:21

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks to the crowd in a long, instructive narrative that is often called the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ teachings include the beatitudes and other teachings that tell us that God’s people are to strive for a better relationship with God. To accomplish that, humanity is required to have a faith that takes them beyond the strict rules established in the Old Testament law. Christians are called not to be legalistic, but to change how they view the world. That change is to come from the inside so that our actions are not rote, but rather a reflection of a new heart.

These words are often preached on during the final weeks after Epiphany (God’s revelation of God’s presence with us) and before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. It is indeed an apt time to take stock of our relationship with God. For when we dare to hear Jesus’ words, this teaching will rightly show us where we have been traveling and just how far we have left to be able to meet a righteous God. As Christians, we are called to give sacrificially of ourselves for the benefit of others, even when we believe that those others are “unworthy” of such a gift.

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If we truly believe that, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” we Christians need to understand that Lent is much more than Ash Wednesday services or “giving up” something to emulate God’s gift to us in Christ. It is a time of honest reflection on how we think and feel. Can we honestly say that we “love our enemies” and that we are “turning the other check” when we are wronged? Are we willingly sharing all of our precious possessions with others? Are we ready to love even those that hate us? 

I think that as we prepare to assess our relationship with God, we need to ask ourselves, are we willing to set aside these teachings and give God less than what is expected? Can we so easily push Jesus’ teachings aside with a hearty, “Well, I try.” 

We learn from Epiphany, that God is willing to be with us. Yet, to live with a righteous God we need to live into that relationship. 

Keith Leach is Pastor of College Church and College Chaplain at Hampden-Sydney College. He can be reached at