Essentially, Paul calls us to humility.
“14 Bless ye men that pursue you; bless ye, and do not ye curse;
15 for to joy with men that joy, for to weep with men that weep.
16 Feel ye the same thing together; not understanding high things, but consenting to meek things[Feeling the same thing together; not savouring, or knowing, high things, but consenting to meek things, following meek fathers]. Do not ye be prudent with yourselves;”
Of course, so does Jesus.
“3 Blessed be poor men in spirit, for the kingdom of heavens is theirs. [Blessed be the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.]
4 Blessed be mild men [Blessed mild], for they shall wield the earth.
5 Blessed be they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
6 Blessed be they that hunger and thirst rightwiseness, for they shall be fulfilled [for they shall be filled].
7 Blessed be merciful men [Blessed the merciful], for they shall get mercy.
8 Blessed be they that be of clean heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed be peaceable men, for they shall be called God’s children. [Blessed the peaceable, for they shall be called the sons of God.]
10 Blessed be they that suffer persecution for rightwiseness, for the kingdom of heavens is theirs [for the kingdom of heaven is theirs].”
We are not called to arrogance, war, haughtiness of spirit, ambivalence, impurity, or ease. Rather, we are called to mildness, poverty of spirit, peace, purity, mourning, and persecution.
In one sense, the words of Paul are reminiscent of the saying: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, walk a mile in them, and then think about your attitude. Then, you may bless them that pursue you; you may weep with those who weep, and be joyful with those who are joyful.
Jesus tells us not to assume He comes to destroy the Law; rather He comes to fulfill the Law. He warns that unless we are more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees, we “will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) It is not enough to refrain from murder; we must refrain from being angry or insulting. It is not enough that we refrain from adultery; we must refrain from lust. It is not enough that we keep our oaths; we must not make oaths at all. It is not enough to love our neighbor; we must also love our enemy. It is not enough to be righteous; we must not be righteous “in front of people, to be seen by them.” (Matthew 6:1) It is not enough to pray; we must not pray in public “to be seen by people” or “babble like the idolators, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:5,7) It is not enough to fast; we must “put oil on [our] heads, and wash [our] faces.” (Matthew 6:17)
“Whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)
Looking in the mirror, I see the least in the kingdom of heaven for I break the least of these commands more times than I can count. I find no room in my heart for self-righteousness. The only righteousness I have belongs to another — my righteousness rests solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ, who fulfills the Law and the Prophets.
“He makes us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life.”
Jesus says, “Don’t assume that I come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I do not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches to do so is called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands is called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 17-19) Then He tells us to surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees — who make an extraordinary effort to obey the letter of the Law.
The letter kills, says Paul. The letter of the Law kills because we can not fully obey it. Even “the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter” is capable of killing us. Jesus says even if we do not actually murder another person, our simple anger at that person is enough to make us “subject to judgment.” Even calling that extremely rude and bad driver in front of us a “fool” makes us “subject to ‘hellfire.'” (Matthew 5: 21, 22) Jesus even says that “anything more than [‘yes’ and ‘no’] is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)
No wonder Paul laments, wondering who is able to rescue him from this body of death. The new covenant says that Jesus is our rescuer. No amount of self-effort will result in our righteousness. Only “the Spirit produces life.”
Jesus says, with His last human breath, “It is accomplished.”
“The Spirit produces life.”
“Bear [or carry] one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Yet within the next few sentences of his letter to the Galatians, Paul adds: “For each will have to bear his own load.” (Galatians 6: 4)
Carry your own load, but look to your neighbor — to help him bear his load. Look to your neighbor — not for help with your own burdens — but in order to help him carry his.
Jesus says, “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends His rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5: 43-45)
So, Jesus is saying that it is not enough to help your neighbor; you must also help your enemy carry his burden. And when you examine this, of course your enemy necessarily carries a heavier burden than does your neighbor. Your enemy’s burden includes hatred, vengeance, bitterness, rage. How do you help one such as this with a load so enormous? Jesus gives us the answer — through prayer.
“If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” asks Jesus. “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 46, 48)