Sunday, April 21, 2013

Gay Ben Hinnom

 You've heard that the ancients were told:
You shall not commit murder
‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’
But I say to you that:
Everyone who is angry with his brother…
…shall be guilty before the court;
Whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’
…shall be guilty before the Supreme Court;
Whoever says, ‘You fool,’
…shall be guilty of the fires of hell (Gehenna).

Therefore if you’re presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you won’t come out of there until you've paid up the last cent.

Matthew 5.21-26 

In Jerusalem there’s a little valley that in Israel’s dark old days was used as a place to sacrifice babies.  Yes, even God’s chosen people at one point were so low-down that they had followed other religions, one of which required them to sacrifice their own children in the fires of Molech (2 Kings 23.10; Jeremiah 32:35).  Later, when Hezekiah was king, he put a stop to this disgusting practice and converted the valley into the city garbage dump.  There was a constant fire in this garbage dump, and it was the city dump for hundreds of years, and was still so used when Jesus was in Jerusalem.  The Hebrew word for valley is pronounced “gay,” and this valley was named “Valley of the sons of Hinnom,” or Gay Ben Hinnom … or just plain Gehenna.  In our section for this week, most bibles will use the word “hell” in Matthew 5.22.  What Jesus says is that anyone who calls another person a fool is to be thrown into the fires of Gehenna.  This sickening place was well known among Jesus’ contemporaries, and it became their word for hell – a place so sickening that no one would ever want to be there – ever – and certainly not for all eternity. 

Does the punishment fit the crime?  Have you called anyone stupid, or fool or moron?  If so, is Jesus actually saying that we’ll spend eternity in this stinking, rotting, fiery pit? 

And just to make things even stranger, Jesus himself calls people ‘fools,’ using the exact same term later on in Matthew (23:17)!  In fact, the man that builds his house on the sand later in the SOM, Jesus calls him a fool, too (Matthew 7:26).

So what’s up?
This section of the SOM is the first of six chunks in which Jesus reminds his disciples of a law (in this case from the ten commandments), but then he teaches them that God wasn't really so much interested in the letter of the law as He was interested in the heart.  In this case God gave Israel a “rule,” a “command,” or “law,” but what God really wanted was for people to love and take care of each other. 

Sadly, most teachers and religious groups these days take Jesus’ teaching and treat it as if Jesus was merely giving a stricter rule.  They teach that it used to be a sin to murder, but now it’s a sin to call someone names.  People who teach this miss the point!  The point Jesus is making is not to merely make the Old Testament even more rigid, but to reveal to us God’s true intent! 

The truth Jesus teaches here is a simple one: Go forth and make amends instead of harboring anger, resentment, judgment, or bitterness.  It’s easier to offer grace when you have experienced the difficult task of asking for forgiveness yourself. 
 “Strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.  Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” - Hebrews 12:12-14
Do you feel the temptation of anger, bitterness or resentment?  Is there someone who upsets you, and to whom you refuse to offer fellowship and grace?  You cannot live with it – eventually Satan will use this to get you.  Maybe you won’t murder, but neither will you help, love and strengthen.  And so you should not be surprised to find yourself in hell.  

This is important: 
You are either actively going one way or the other, there is no passivity here, no neutral.  You can’t merely “live and let live,” and be like Jesus.  Eventually it’ll get to you and wear you down.  You MUST pursue, chase, and actively seek reconciliation!
Fires of Gehenna - final destination for those who refuse to "make friends quickly"

"Pursue peace with all""make friends quickly" … 
...or sin is crouching at your door, and ...
... Gay Ben Hinnom is your destiny 

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