I touched on this in
but I want to fill it out a bit more.
It’s not unusual for an atheist to counter a comment about sexual purity with, “Well you don’t stone your child to death for being disobedient.” The implication, which seems clear to the atheist is that if you don’t adhere to every law of Leviticus you have no business paying attention to any moral dictum. Sometimes it’s followed up by, “Jesus was all about love.”
So what did Jesus have to say about all this? “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill the law.” Matthew 5:17 Then six times in the next few minutes Jesus starts, “You have heard it said . . .” and follows through with what the Old Testament Law always meant.
As unredeemed humans:
We would love it if not killing someone meant that we were kind people.
We’d love it if all we had to do was be good to those who were good to us.
We’d love it if not taking something that belonged to someone meant that we were honest.
We’d love it if not having sex with our neighbour’s spouse, meant we were faithful to our own.
Those things we can do. But not killing someone is not the same as living in peace.
Jesus stated as clearly as could be said that He was not changing the law, not in the least stroke of the pen. By thinking that only outward acts constituted violations of God’s law, we are left free to entertain and nurture corrupt hearts. We actually believe that God’s law should not speak to our hearts. Jesus said that is absolute bull. It’s from corrupt hearts that hypocrisy arises.
. Jesus got very specific how the law was meant to be applied. For example:
. Jesus said that what we today call serial monogamy is actually serial adultery.
. The “eye for an eye” law was meant to limit legal retribution, not as we are tempted to see as license for revenge. Loving one’s enemy did not originate with Jesus on earth. He had given it as a law as far back as Exodus 23:4,5 and Proverbs 25:21.
Every single principle of the Sermon on the Mount had already been stated or clearly implied in the Old Testament. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbour as yourself had been there all along. That is the fulfilment of the law.
The primary impact of genuine faith is on the heart of the believer. Motives and priorities change dramatically. The focus of life moves from self to others.
When Jesus recited the Golden Rule in the proactive form that is unique to Christianity, and then followed with “THIS is the Law and the Prophets” he was saying that the principle of the Golden Rule, is the underlying principle that governed and supported all of the law of the Old Testament.