Ever hear of BCP?
Every discipline, every industry, every profession has its own version of BCP. Best Current Practice. Or simply, Best Practices. Theorists are the ones researching new technologies, studying stubborn problems, uncovering new ways to think about old challenges. Practitioners are the ones making it work in the field. Standard practice follows innovation and theoretical work. BCP is driven by pragmatics. Find what works. Find what works better than anything else. Then make everyone do it that way. Best practices are “successful, reliable and safe”. Until Jesus gets ahold of them, that is. Matthew 5, part 2 is what happens when Jesus’ definition of righteousness confronts Pharisaic BCP.
Matthew 5, Part 1 is Jesus reframing what it means to be the people of God living in the blessings of his kingdom. God favors a surprising sort of person. In part two, the surprises continue. What God expects of people in his kingdom is not just righteousness (right relationships, right actions and decisions). That was nothing new to Jesus’ audience. It was the DEGREE of righteousness that blew them away. Without a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees, Jesus says, you won’t even get in the front door! If there was ever a people group excessive about righteousness, it was famously the scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law. Jesus has reframed the conversation entirely away from industry best practice. And its troubling that Jesus did so, NOT by saying that the Pharisees had made righteousness too hard, but somehow too EASY! What does it mean to actually practice faith, obey God’s word and live out what God desires for his people? Jesus is reframing.
The chapters leading up to the Sermon on the Mount area a terrific set-up! Spoiler alerts everywhere! John the Baptist says “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near… prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” It would be quite a let down for Jesus to show up and simply baptize the status quo! The good news Jesus announced about this kingdom came with demonstrations of power – his teaching, his healing and his forgiving of sin. The baptism of Jesus is meant in his own words as a “fulfillment of all righteousness.” What will this new righteousness look like?
Here’s how we’ll approach Part 2. Let’s look at what Jesus says first about righteousness and the law. Then we’ll consider seven test-case scenarios (if you will) of where true righteousness and BCP clash. You know the routine by now. Print a fresh manuscript, mark it up, then come back for a few discussion questions.
Practicing True Righteousness
1- Read Matt 5: 17-20. Why does Jesus have to begin with the disclaimer found in v 17?
2- The Law and the Prophets was actually shorthand for the entire Old Testament. What are Jesus’ interests in the law? What is he trying to prevent? What is he trying to do?
3- Jesus implicates those with leadership and teaching responsibilities in relation to the law. Who is he talking about?
4- What does Jesus mean by asserting that entering the kingdom of heaven is a matter of righteousness? What would make ones righteousness greater than that of a Pharisee?
5- Read Tim Keller’s word study on Righteousness at the link below. He states that “righteousness is a life of right relationships… right with God and therefore committed to putting right all other relationships in life.” How could this definition help us understand why Jesus found pharisaic righteousness so deficient?
Everyday Righteousness – Seven Case Studies
Jesus takes us further into his mind about true righteousness. The righteousness his audience knew was an accepted best-practice version he relentlessly confronts. “You have heard (BCP)… but I say to you (true kingdom righteousness).” Here’s an exercise you can do over the course of a week.
- Get seven 3×5 notecards and title each of the seven case-studies (one per card). In my manuscript I’ve labeled them, Reconciliation, Lust, Divorce, Oaths, etc. You might title them differently.
- Identify the Best Current Practice thinking that Jesus is confronting. What must have been the accepted understanding in order for Jesus to confront each one the way he is?
- How does Jesus REFRAME the prevailing best current practice? What is new?
- Lastly, what kind of life are kingdom people to have as their goal? What kind of world are we hungering and thirsting for?
At the end of the week, consider re-reading Matt 5 and looking again at your case studies. On the back of each card journal about the following questions:
Does true righteousness in this area (anger, reconciliation, lust, oaths, etc) matter today? Why? What is one specific way Jesus invites me to a higher, better, and more complete righteousness?