It would be one thing if Jesus had asked us to do things we could actually do, like feed the dog or take out the garbage. But He asks us to love our enemy, return good for evil, forgive 70 times 7, never lust or harbor contempt — and the list goes on. He’s asked us to do things we really cannot do!
The most common approach to this problem I’ve heard over the years is, “Go ahead and make your self do the right thing even if you don’t feel like it!” Well, I suppose there’s something to be said for stopping myself from doing something wrong I really felt like doing. But if the only reason I do something or don’t do something is because it’s what I’m supposed to do, what does that say about the condition of my heart? If I have to override my internal process in order to say the words, “I forgive you,” have I really forgiven you at all?
Seems to me, that kind of obedience is what Jesus called, “Cleaning the outside of the cup.” I’m thinking God had more in mind than strong willpower and compliance when He talked about obedience. And if we look a little closer, the problem gets even more interesting.
See, Paul says that no one was ever able to keep the old Law. Then along comes Jesus with His Sermon on the Mount and other sayings, and basically raises the bar higher than the Law ever was. Not only can you not commit murder, you are not even supposed to wish you could. You not only should not commit adultery, you should not wonder what it would be like to do so. Well if we could not keep the old law, there’s surely no way we can measure up to the new standard set by Jesus! So what does it mean to be obedient if the commands are impossible? Food for thought (with more to come).