The Sermon on the Mount in a 2020 Context

I have a friend who lives in “opposite world.” If he calls you, “jerk,” it means he likes you. If he says, “I hate you,” he loves you. If he says, “bad luck,” he is wishing you good luck. It seems like everything in his world is upside-down, and it takes a while to get used to his way of talking and thinking. The Pharisees likely felt the same way when Jesus started teaching. They thought they had it all figured out. If they kept God’s Law and went above and beyond adhering to moral rules, they would earn eternal life. But Jesus taught something different. He challenged what they assumed about how God wanted His people to live. They made rules a priority, but He was more concerned about the heart.

Luke 6 presents a condensed version of what is known as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This passage makes it clear that the kingdom of God should look upside-down to the rest of the world. While we claim to follow God, are we following His teaching and example? Or do we treat following God like “following” Him on social media—checking in now and then, looking at the memories He shares, and liking His inspirational quotes?

God still calls us to the upside-down living Jesus preached in His Sermon on the Mount. Our love for Him leads us to practical obedience, not nominal observance. So what would that look like in 2020?

1. Prioritizing the same things as God (Luke 6:20–26).

The beatitudes, as seen here in Luke 6, are a list of blessings on unlikely groups. When you boil it down, God is demonstrating that blessing does not come through wealth, food, entertainment, popularity, and a good reputation. Instead, blessing comes when we prioritize Him above all else. Anything we suffer due to making God first in our life is something that will be repaid by glorious blessing when we are finally together with Christ. The American dream (and its modern mutations) will only lead us farther and farther from the only thing that will ultimately fulfill us.

2. Showing compassion in the face of crime (Luke 6:27–30).

I used to think that “love your enemies” meant that Christians should “let people walk all over them.” But today, I see it differently. Imagine that someone robs you and you give him something extra out of compassion. Wouldn’t that be extraordinary? That’s what Jesus is saying. If someone does me wrong, I need to do something right in return—not for “karma,” but to demonstrate the love of the One who gave me every blessing in Christ when I was still His enemy. Justice has a place, but we can show compassion and love to those who treat us wrongly.

3. Treating others the same way you want them to treat you (Luke 6:31).

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” It’s a simple phrase we all memorized at least once in our lives—but do we live it out? What do you wish that people would do for you? Often, I reach the end of the day and feel sad because no one has texted me or reached out to me. Instead of throwing a pity party and focusing on myself, I could be that person who texts someone else or reaches out to them. How do you want to be treated? How can you show love to someone who needs it today?

4. Loving people unconditionally (Luke 6:32–38).

We are just like the people listening to Jesus’ original Sermon on the Mount. He spoke to the human inclination of wanting to only love those who love us back. Our culture has latched onto this idea. Why should we show love to someone who doesn’t love us? Perhaps we don’t truly understand love. According to the Bible, love is an action, not a feeling.

Love is praying for the people who have hurt you. 

Love is sacrificing your wants and desires for others, even when it may be annoying. 

Love is doing good to people who don’t know you and may never see you again, simply because the Holy Spirit prompts your heart to do it. 

Love is having a conversation with an outcast, giving a listening ear. 

Love does not mean putting yourself in dangerous situations, but it does mean showing others that they are worth loving. 

If you show love to people who don’t love you, you are showing them a picture of the love God had for us while we were still His enemies and the love He pours on us daily.

5. Judging self before others (Luke 6:39–45).

This passage elaborates on Jesus’ teaching about judgment. The summary: look at yourself and figure out what kind of fruit you are producing before you try to fix other people’s lives. Our behaviors reveal our hearts, but it is often easier to look at someone else’s behaviors and judge their heart than to look critically at our own. In God’s kingdom, rather than tout our own righteousness, we carefully examine ourselves and rely on Christ’s righteousness. We judge ourselves by God’s righteous standard and see our own need for God’s grace. The perspective of our need for grace will help us have grace for others. Are you more concerned with “the speck in your brother’s eye” or “the log in your own”? As you look at your own life, think about what kind of fruit you are producing.

6. Building on the foundation (Luke 6:46–49).

Jesus asks his followers, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” So many people outside of the church ask the same question. “Why do you call yourselves Christians but not act like Jesus?” While they often do not understand what Jesus would have acted like, the question is one that should make us stop short and take a serious look at ourselves. Here are some questions I’ve been thinking about for you to consider as well:

  • Do I act like Jesus, the way that He laid out for me in the Sermon on the Mount?
  • If someone were to interact with me, whether briefly or day after day, would they realize that Someone that has changed my life?
  • Am I hearing God’s Words and acting on them?
  • Am I prioritizing my relationship with God more than the things my culture prioritizes?
  • Am I showing compassion, even to those who least deserve it?
  • Am I treating others the way I want to be treated?
  • Am I loving people unconditionally?
  • Am I judging myself before others?
  • Am I following whatever will give me temporary joy, getting on a soapbox to argue about my rights, looking down on people, leaving no room for the grace I have been given through Christ, picking and choosing whom I will love, and treating myself the way I want to be treated?

Living Out the Upside-Down Life

When a stormy time of life comes, what we say and do will ultimately reveal where our foundation is. If I am shaken to the core, I have been building on the wrong foundation. Faith doesn’t show up only on Sundays, as a list of rules, or as a fire insurance policy that will keep you out of hell. That kind of thinking breeds Christians who look similar to everyone else in the world. Be the kind of Christ-follower Jesus painted with His words in the Sermon on the Mount. Stand out. Let it be holiness that makes people stop and stare, not hypocrisy. Let yours be the house that stands because you have found your identity in accepting the free gift of God’s grace and offering that grace to everyone who crosses your path.

About Author

God has called Elizabeth to communicate truth through writing, music, and art. She lives on her family's farm in Southwest Michigan where they strive to grow as much of their own food as possible. When Elizabeth isn't busy making cheese or working in the garden, she is writing, making music, or serving at church. She loves to dig into the Word of God and share what she finds through social media and other platforms.

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