Opinion by Jim Denney
I was reading a science-fiction story today by Fred Saberhagen. Titled “Stone Place,” it is a story in his futuristic Berserker series. The story contains this interesting exchange between two characters, a skeptical poet-warrior named Mitchell Spain and a devoutly religious commander named Karlsen:
“Poet,” Karlsen asked suddenly, “how do you deal with deadly enemies, when you find them in your power?”
“Don’t ask me,” Mitch said. “Ask your God. But didn’t He tell you to forgive your enemies?”
“He did.” Karlsen nodded, slowly and thoughtfully. “You know, He wants a lot from us.”
It was a peculiar sensation, to become suddenly convinced that the man you were watching was a genuine, nonhypocritical Believer. Mitch was not sure he had ever met the like before.
Karlsen, the Believer in the story, is right. God does want a lot from us. Jesus laid out what God wants from us in the Sermon on the Mount.
The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 though 7 is all about how to be spiritually, eternally blessed. It’s about how to be salt in a tasteless world. It’s about how to be light in a darkened world. It’s about how we are to live together and treat one another.
In a real sense, it’s about one all-important issue: How to be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. A citizen of Heaven doesn’t think or act like a citizen of this world. A citizen of Heaven thinks and acts the way Jesus did.
Jesus tells us that He is a King, but His kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven, and it operates by a different set of rules than earthly kingdoms.
Again and again in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts earthly expectations against heavenly principles. The world tells us that the powerful and exalted are blessed. Jesus tells us that, in His kingdom, the humble, the afflicted, the merciful, the pure, and the persecuted are blessed.
The Sermon on the Mount is a study in contrasts. You’ve heard it said, “Do not murder,” but Jesus says, “Do not even hate!” You’ve heard it said, “An eye for an eye,” but Jesus says, “Bless your enemies. Forgive those who do you harm.” You’ve heard it said, “Do not commit adultery,” but Jesus says, “If you even lust in your heart, you are already guilty.” Again and again, Jesus challenges our thinking with heavenly thinking.
To think like Jesus, we must learn to think in new ways, and our lives must reflect this new way of thinking. We can’t engage in all the hate, rage, and bitterness we see on social media and the cable news channels and the halls of Congress. We must work to heal the divisions we see all around us. We must forgive those who attack us because of our religion, our race, our values, our political views, and on and on. We must forgive and love as He forgave and loved us.
We live in the world, but we are not of the world. We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.