When Jesus came he brought in a new way which we read in Hebrews is better than the old. There is most certainly significant continuity between the old and new covenants. But with Jesus comes a radical newness, indeed a fulfillment of the old, but not entirely predictable by the old. Like what C.S. Lewis describes in one of his writings when the new world is unveiled. Unimaginable before but is a perfect fulfillment or end to the old world. When God created, the goal was not creation but new creation out of the old through Jesus.
Under the old covenant oaths were not only common, but holy. As was the taking of human life at various times. Not to say there wasn’t plenty of sin going on around that, although these acts themselves were not counted as sin, and perhaps indeed were not sin in themselves during that time.
But now Jesus forbids oath taking, or swearing as in taking a vow; as well as killing, the taking of human life. Indeed in Jesus enters into this old world a new way, yes a better way, indeed the way, the truth and the life. The kingdom of God come in Jesus is the paradigm now by how the entire world is judged. Of course the new replaces the old by virtue of God’s saving work in Jesus. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection all is to undergo the same baptism so to speak through death into new life. Those who refuse this way will be judged with destruction.
Instead of oath taking, our word is to be good in itself. We are holy in Jesus and we are to fulfill what we promise, as well as be true to our words. Never are we intentionally to violate what we have said before God and man. We are made in God’s image and being remade through Jesus toward the goal of perfectly reflecting and indeed bearing that image.
And we are never to take the life of any human. Our way in Jesus is the way of life to all, including our enemies. To not only spare their lives, refusing tit for tat, but also praying that they will receive the new and eternal life in Jesus. Our way in Jesus indeed is the way of the cross. This is in opposition to the way of the sword. We do indeed resist evil, but only with God’s love, the love of God in Jesus, indeed a cruciform love. So that while we would avoid martyrdom if possible, we would give up our own lives before taking the life of another.
People need to see the new and better way, the way of Jesus in us. They need to see that we are different than the world. That we do indeed love our enemies by praying for them, doing good, and not resisting evil in the way the world does–with retaliation. But rather seeking to overcome evil by doing good. This is all found in the pages of our New Testament. We need to read them beginning in the gospels and note well the difference in the better way that is in Jesus.
I know I’ve applied this term “better” from the Book of Hebrews in a way that book does not in applying it to our words and actions toward enemies. I am assuming that while better applies to all the term is attached to in Hebrews, in a secondary loose way, we can apply that across the board to all that is of the new covenant. And that even if Hebrews did not use that term, it would be arguably justified when considering the fulfillment in Jesus in comparison to what it fulfills. Though we are probably unwise to try to imagine such a possibility since God’s revelation is important in each part.