The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is one of the more misunderstood passages in the Bible. If we do not understand the context we will never understand the purpose and we will quickly turn this wonderfully liberating teaching from Jesus into another set of impotent rules and regulations.
Here is the critical background: Jesus is not giving us a set of rules to show how good we are: Jesus is showing us the Kingdom values we are called to live by. These are not rules they are bench marks on the journey. They are not rules they are evidence of the state of the root of our spiritual tree (remember only a good tree can produce good fruit). As we are transformed by the experience of the the Kingdom of the heavens being among us, as our hearts are changed and our values restructured by the power of the Holy Spirit, these new values will begin to emerge in our lives.
It begins with the beatitudes: these are not manufactured emotions or behaviors -- they are emerging attitudes that begin to form in the lives of Christ followers. The poor, the mourning, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure, the peacemakers, the persecuted discover their blessedness in discovering their inclusion in the Kingdom as it is emerging. The Kingdom of the heavens leaves no one out -- not the poor (nor the rich) not the sad (nor the happy) not the meek (nor the aggressive) not the hungry (or the filled) not the merciful (nor the angry) not the pure (nor the soiled) not the peacemakers (nor the warmongers) not the persecuted (nor the comfortably mainstreamed). In the kingdom of the heavens (the Kingdom of God) we are salt, we are light, and we begin to do what was impossible -- rise above the law and live into these new values.
Because our hearts have been changed (we are no longer trying to earn favor with God but have surrendered our hearts and lives by following Jesus!) we surrender all of the elements of human brokenness. We no longer live in the negative. Consider the evidence of a good person under the law was that we didn't do something -- we didn't kill, commit adultery, etc. Under the kingdom values we are able to surrender Anger and Dismissals, we are able to surrender lust and revenge and in so doing not only avoid murder and adultery but live into the kind of abundant life Jesus came to provide.
When I read Matthew 5-7 as "just another set of rules" I will find myself continuing to live out the same "its impossible so I might as well fake it or reject it" scenario that "religious" people have been locked into since the foundation of the world.
None of this matters and none of it is possible until I surrender my desire to justify myself and my actions. When I "repent for the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand!" When I drop my nets and follow Jesus . . . I not only drop my nets I also drop all pretending and live into a whole new reality in Christ!