As any quick read of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel will reveal (and I'm not going into parallels and other practices of textual criticism), Jesus speaks repeatedly in terms that don't sound very Lutheran. In addition to the entire Sermon's reaffirmation of the Law and the Prophets (5:17), there are numerous threatening logia such as these:
- "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (5:20)
- "I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; ... and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire." (5:21f)
- "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven." (6:1)
- "[B]ut if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (6:15)
- "For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." (7:2)
So here's my question: How do all y'all understand these sayings of Our Lord? (That implicates the general question of judgment at the end times, of course, too.) If you are a Lutheran (and also if you're not, but nonetheless don't subscribe an outright works-righteousness theology), how do you square these straightforward logia with the Lutheran "sola gratia" -- i.e., we are saved by grace, not anything we do? What is the reward that the Father will withhold unless we are discrete in our charity? Is there really room for a tit-for-tat in the Gospel?
I rather assume that no one will suggest that the Sermon on the Mount is simply idealistic language that Jesus knows no one can obey: That seems, even from the mouth of Reinhold Niebuhr (who I'm told held to that view) too facile and too unbiblical. But if that's your position, prove me wrong.
We've had some good times in the Matthew class with this, and I'd like to see what happens here.