A few weeks ago I mentioned an essay by Glen Stasson called "The Fourteen Triads of the Sermon on the Mount." Stasson argues that these triads (found in Matthew 5:21-7:12) can loosely be arranged in this form:
1. Jesus states a traditional teaching or practice
2. He gives a warning or teaching on a vicious cycle of living as a result of misunderstanding/misapplying the teaching or practice.
3. He gives a transforming initiative, which a believer can follow, which will free one from the vicious cycle.
Stasson's essay is fairly lengthy, and I don't intend to summarize all of his findings here. However, I did want to discuss some observations that I've had as I've mulled over each of these fourteen triads. Over the next few weeks, I'll be writing a post about each of the triads.
I've already written a bit about the first triad, which deals with murder and anger (Matthew 5:21-26; the post is "Jesus Journal #16 and can be reached by clicking on the title of Stasson's essay above). Please permit me to add a few further comments here.
To begin, here is the general set-up of this triad:
In the few sentences of this passage, Jesus is explaining that the command regarding murder is broader than people were (and are today?) interpreting it. Being angry, insulting people, and calling names all lead to the same thing as murder: judgment. As anyone who experiences anger, insults, and name calling knows, living on either end (the giving or taking of anger, insult, name-calling) is not pleasant. In truth, it's corrosive or cancerous. It is, to use Stasson's terminology, a vicious cycle.
Jesus would not have us live in such a cycle, as either giver or receiver. The third part of this triad is expressed in a couple of examples Jesus gives, one about reconciling with a brother (a fellow believer), and one about reconciling with an unbeliever. In both cases, the general principle is that believers should seek to reconcile and be at peace with people.
This sort of action will take some serious adjustment and action. Jesus would have us almost go to extremes to be peace-making reconcilers. In his example, he says if we remember that our brother has something against us, we need to go do something about it--even if we're making an offering to God when we remember. In Jesus' day, this would have required some travel, for the place of offering was miles away for his listeners. The point is, Jesus is saying this is important; make a serious effort to make peace.
Jesus' second example about seeking peace with an accuser sounds similar to our current concept of settling outside of court. In very public cases we don't necessarily think the best of parties that do this, but settling outside of court allows people at odds to come to an agreement--a sort of peace--without having to involve the court system--and formal judgment.
So it is healthful to a person to seek peace and reconciliation when he or she has conflict with another person. But note this: in both of Jesus' examples, the person seeking the reconciliation is the one that is thought to have offended. In example one, Jesus says if you "remember your brother has something against YOU." In example two, Jesus says, "come to terms quickly with YOUR accuser." Jesus isn't just talking about being forgiving here. He's talking about humbling ourselves and seeking forgiveness, that we might be at peace with our brothers and those who would accuse us.
This obviously is move toward peace by and for the person taking action. Perhaps more radically, it is a move FOR the peace of the offended brother or the one bringing accusation. Jesus is saying that our action will bring peace and reconciliation for us and for the one we're seeking to make peace and reconciliation with.
Yes, I know that this is implied by the terms "peace" and "reconciliation," at least as I've used them. The implication is that both parties are coming to peace and reconciliation together. My point is, when we take action to make peace or to have reconciliation, we are leaving the vicious cycle of anger, insult, and name-calling... AND, we're helping others do the same thing. Our seeking of peace brings peace to those who think we've wronged them. And this is, indeed, a transforming initiative.
Have you any of you found these actions of seeking peace and reconciliation to be transformative?