QOTD: Richard Hays on Reconciling the Moral Visions of OT and NT Texts

From Richard B. Hays, Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (pp.336-337):

“…the New Testament’s witness is finally normative.  If irreconcilable tensions exist between the moral vision of the New Testament and that of particular Old Testament texts, the New Testament vision trumps the Old Testament.  Just as the New Testament texts render judgments superseding the Old Testament requirements of circumcision and dietary laws, just as the New Testament’s forbidding of divorce supersedes the Old Testament’s permission of it, so also Jesus’ explicit teaching and example of nonviolence reshapes our understanding of God and of the covenant community in such a way that killing enemies is no longer a justifiable option.  The sixth antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount marks the hermeneutical watershed.  As we have noted, the Old Testament distinguishes the obligation of loving the neighbor (that is, the fellow Israelite) from the response to enemies: ‘[B]ut I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.’  Once that word has been spoken to us and perfectly embodied in the story of Jesus’ life and death, we cannot appeal back to Samuel as a counterexample to Jesus.  Everything is changed by the cross and resurrection.  We now live in a situation in which we confess that ‘in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us’ (2 Cor. 5:19).  Those who have been entrusted with such a message will read the Old Testament in such a way that its portrayals of God’s mercy and eschatological restoration of the world will take precedence over its stories of justified violence.”

Obviously Jesus Didn’t REALLY Mean That

“The history of the impact of the Sermon on the Mount can largely be described in terms of an attempt to domesticate everything in it that is shocking, demanding, and uncompromising, and render it harmless.” 
– Pinchas Lapide

You haven’t truly witnessed the human capacity to vomit endless rationalizations until you’ve suggested to a Christian that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, means what he says and says what he means.  I vote that we change evangelism from altar calls and sinner’s prayers to the studying & signing of a contract to live out the Kingdom-life portrayed in the Sermon on the Mount.

Can you imagine a church or youth group where the commitment to become a Christian (to “follow Jesus”) is a thought-out pledge to the distinct lifestyle commanded in the Sermon?  It might hurt our “numbers,” but I have a feeling that if we did this our churches, while smaller, would be much more Christ-like and profoundly more interesting to the world around us.