Mr. Shive is a pastor at Hillside Community Church in Golden, CO. He recently preached a sermon, which can be found here, on Matthew 5:17–48. Jesus begins the passage by saying that he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill. He then goes on to explain what the Law says about murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and love. In his sermon, Mr. Shive attempts to define the Law and its intent and then tries to explain the true meaning of the Law in regards to murder and the other issues addressed by Jesus. So many things stand out to me in this sermon. It is not necessary for me to address all of them, but it may be helpful to address some of them. First, though, let me say that I am unable to determine if Mr. Shive is being willfully deceitful or if he is just so deceived himself that he does not realize what he is saying. So, while I do urge you to critically consider what he teaches, I urge you to not judge his character based solely upon what I write here.
As Mr. Shive tries to define the Law and its intent, he informs his listeners that there are numerous things that might be meant by “Law.” He says that sometimes the New Testament writers are referring to the entire Old Testament when they use the term “Law.” Sometimes they are referring to the first five books of the Old Testament. Sometimes they are referring to God’s moral law. Sometimes they are referring to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, and sometimes they are referring to the pharisaical interpretations of the Law. Mr. Shive fails to both tell his listeners how Jesus uses the term “Law” in this passage and how he uses the term “Law” in the rest of his sermon. Still, that does not prevent him from using the term throughout the sermon.
After failing to define what he means by “Law”, Mr. Shive tries to reveal the true meaning of the Law and makes some contradictory statements about how the Law was designed to reveal our sin but that it was not designed to point out what people do wrong. He says that the Law was never meant to point out the wrongs of the people around us as a way to exclude them from Jesus. Instead, the intent of the law was to draw people deeply into what God’s heart was so that Christians would understand God’s love and favor and grace. He says that the Law was designed to be attractive to the people around us rather than excluding them from us. It is true that the Law reveals God’s character and that love and grace are part of God’s character; but how does the Law draw people deeply into what God’s heart was, and what does that even mean? Mr. Shive does not explain. Neither does he explain how the burdensome and bloody ceremonial laws were meant to be attractive or how all the laws regarding cleanliness and purity, which informed the Israelites of who was to be excluded and who was to be included, were not designed to exclude people. It seems to me that the exclusion of particular people is a key aspect of God’s character and ought to be a key aspect of his church (see 2 Corinthians 6:14). It would be nice if Mr. Shive would explain his position a little bit more clearly and precisely.
He then goes on to say that the Law’s aim is towards love, love of God and love of our neighbors, and he rightly concludes that love is the fulfillment of the Law. The follow up question would of course be: what is love? However, Mr. Shive does not even pretend to attempt to define what he means by “love.” So, all he is really saying is that an undefined word is the fulfillment of the Law. In other words, he has said absolutely nothing. I have no further response to nothing.
Mr. Shive continues in the second half of his sermon and addresses the issues raised by Christ. What I find most fascinating is what Mr. Shive says about murder and retaliation. Concerning murder, Jesus says that anyone who commits murder will be liable before the court and also that anyone who is angry with his brother and says to him, “You good-for-nothing,” will be liable before the court. Mr. Shive fails to properly address the doctrine of anger and tell his listeners when anger should be expressed and when it should be suppressed. He instead says, “You can’t say bad things about people, even in your head. And this is a tough one for me. There are some people I don’t get along with well.” He rightly reads that if you bring your offering to the alter and remember that your brother has something against you, you should leave your offering and go to your brother. He then says regarding those who have something against him, “It’s not their responsibility to come to me. It’s my responsibility to go to them and own my wrongs.” Oh really? Do Mr. Shive and the other elders at Hillside really believe this? Was there not an accusation of apostasy made against Mr. Shive and all the elders of Hillside more than a year ago? I wonder if he or any of the other elders have left their offering at the alter and gone to that brother who made the accusation?
What Mr. Shive says about retaliation is equally insincere. He quotes verse 40 in which Jesus says, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.” Mr. Shive claims that this should be taken literally at all times and that Christians should give to people whatever they ask. He then touts something that Hillside is doing as a church in Nicaragua as evidence of their love, whatever that is, and deep relationship with God, whatever that is. Apparently, there are some boys in Nicaragua who need a lot of things and who ask for a lot of things from Hillside. The fact that Hillside gives things to these boys is, according to Mr. Shive, evidence that they as a church are being obedient to Jesus’ command. Hmm, let’s test this theory. Mr. Shive, I need $100,000 in cash tomorrow. Will you and or your church please give me $100,000? If you don’t have $100,000, I will be willing to accept whatever you do have.
If they give me a suitcase full of cash, I will be sure to write about it on this weblog and tell everyone that Mr. Shive and Hillside are indeed sincere in their belief that Christians should give freely to those who ask of them. Until then, I can only conclude that Mr. Shive is either insincere or deeply confused in his teaching.
I would like to interact more with what Mr. Shive says about the Law and love; but, as I have said above, I am not actually sure what Mr. Shive says about the Law and love. All I do know is that the sermon was quite confusing and left me wondering if Mr. Shive really believes what he teaches.
If he or any of the other elders from Hillside would like to clarify any of these issues, they are more than welcome. In fact, we invite them to do so right here on this weblog.