THE Rev. Paul Dunstan, Superintendent Minister for the Tynedale Methodist Circuit ,comments on Matthew 5: 13-20:

In our complicated world it's sometimes hard to know what is right.

Lifestyles and values change. Against this ever-changing background, Jesus affirms that God's law (as written in the Old Testament) will never change 'until heaven and earth disappear' (v.18).

Much of that law still forms the basis of our society and our notions of right and wrong.

But other bits have been dropped: most of us don't circumcise our children, for example. Why? Well, because the New Testament says so!

So Jesus says God's law won't change, but the Bible shows that not all of it still applies.

Tom Wright says it's a bit like the first Europeans sailing to America: when they were at sea the 'Law of the Sea' meant there were all kinds of things they had to do and some they were forbidden to do, but when they settled on land some of those things changed or became unnecessary.

The 'sea' laws had served their purpose and were not wrong; they just no longer applied. That's a bit like what Jesus meant when he said he hadn't come to abolish God's law but to fulfil (or complete) it (v17).

So, one guiding principle for us is to ask whether an Old Testament law has been made no longer necessary by Jesus coming.

Animal sacrifice, for example, isn't needed because of Jesus' death.

The distinction between Jew and Gentile has been eradicated, along with the things that mark us out as different (such as circumcision and food laws).

But the commandments to love God and our neighbour, not to murder or commit adultery – these are all applied even more stringently, as we shall see in the next verses