I really don’t think Christians or the Christianity in general which I grew up with (even as a Mennonite, perhaps) took seriously enough Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. And Jesus told his disciples before his ascension that they were not only to be witnesses of him, to proclaim him, but to teach all those baptized from all nations to the end of the age to obey all he commanded them. The Sermon on the Mount is a centerpiece of what he taught and commanded.
I have seen gossip*, as well as unloving attitudes among Christians, rolling one’s eyes up against another, simply too common (with wonderful exceptions). We chalk that down to the thought that we’re sinners (and, “Everyone does it.”). Or we even justify it. But actually it’s disobedience to Christ, the one who says that if we love him, we’ll do what he commands. We make a big deal out of protecting ourselves with guns from any intruder, or any enemy, when Jesus tells us otherwise. We make it a priority to gain wealth, maybe get a nice slice of the pie in the American enterprise to realize something of the American Dream when Jesus tells us plainly in the Sermon that instead we’re to pursue his kingdom. And not to do that. Or what about our propensity to put hard and fast judgments on others.
From a misreading of scripture we’ve had at least one whole section of the church relegate the Sermon on the Mount either to a bygone day, or a time yet to come. Which actually ended up infecting many churches and Christians, who officially did not hold to that doctrine. And we’ve had other leaders who gave lip service to the Sermon (in the Reformation), but whose theology really had little room for it. They still lived in and imported much of what had been the norm for Israel in the old covenant.
Reading the Sermon on the Mount, and then seeing much of the rest of the New Testament to a large extent echoing as well as unfolding the teaching of that Sermon is not only eye opening, but revolutionary to one’s faith and practice. Instead we are relegated to a significant degree to get on better on our worldly way, now that we have Christ.
Words are cheap, and it’s easy to talk this way. Much harder to live it out. But we need to do just that. We need each other in this. As the Sermon along with all of Jesus’ teachings and example, and all the truth that is in Jesus becomes more and more the heart of who we are together in him in our witness to the world.
*I mentioned gossip when writing this, probably because those who see Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount as important for our lives today, would at least know better than to do that. Although gossip does not break the letter of the Sermon since it is not mentioned, it shatters the spirit of it.