Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Redefining Murder, Advocating Reconciliation

posted by xscot mcknight

Jesus redefined murder: if murder was defined in the Torah as we do most of the time (taking another person’s life), Jesus boosted it. For Jesus, “murder” includes anger and labeling and damning others. But, this text cannot be applied simply as it is.
Why? To begin with, Jesus is responding to an interpretation of the law against a murder in which, evidently, judgment is restricted to manslaughter. Jesus wants that law deepened. Manslaughter, Jesus says, begins with anger and labeling and damning others. Why? Because it devalues other persons who are made as Eikons of God.
By the way, the internalization of murder is found in Judaism as well. Jesus isn’t proving his way as better than everything ever heard in Judaism, but showing just how his view of the Torah fits in his world. And, for him, the internal state is the seat of morality.
In the place of murder — anger, labeling, damning — Jesus sets the stakes higher: pursue reconciliation. Unlike Cain who murdered his brother, Jesus advocates reconciliation with the brother — perhaps like Joseph.
And this demand not to have anger needs to be seasoned a bit with Jesus’ rather demonstrative and “angry” language in Matthew 23, where Jesus inveighs against the scribes and Pharisees for hypocrisy, or Herod for being a “fox” (Luke 13), or his regular diatribe with “this generation” (Matt 11). One thinks here of Eph 4:26 and Dale Allison’s commentary on the SoM has some nice citations at this point. Perhaps, it might be argued, that anger was not expressed on such occasions.
It is worth observing, at least for me, that Jesus loved to exaggerate: is this perhaps his way of arguing that anger is bad and that reconciliation is good, and that the best way to make this clear is to overstate it?
Anger, then, is a disposition of devaluing another person below who and what they are, and not simply an emotion. Justifiable anger co-exists, so it seems to me, with “not being angry” in Matt 5:21-26. But, anger (as Jesus here defines it) is to be overwhelmed by the pursuit of reconciliation.
Those who wish to follow Jesus must, then, consider this high summons of Jesus: pursue reconciliation for the seed-bed of murder lies in the angry heart. Our brief discussion here has involved us in explaining the meaning of “anger,” but the focus of the text is on the pursuit of reconciliation instead of letting anger run wild.
In the weekend services pastor Gene Appel gave each of us a little “plank” and he somehow connected this little plank with the log in the eye of Matt 7 and the plank that blinds us to those who are alone or whom we don’t like or those whom we don’t love, and he summoned us to write names or attitudes on the plank and then snap them as we committed ourselves to reconciling and loving others.
The sound of snapping planks is the sound of reconciliation. It is a sweet sound.



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Mark

posted November 14, 2005 at 9:01 pm


A very provocative post that bring to mind a couple of things. Your comment on Jesus using exagerration brings to mind the musical Godspell. One of the reasons I like that musical is because it exagerrates the claims of Christ, and in so doing, demonstrates how radical Christ is.
That leads to my second thought/question: if anger is being overwhelmed by the pursuit of reconciliation, does that mean that a desire for justice must also come from anger?



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Max

posted November 14, 2005 at 10:53 pm


So Scot,
In Acts 8, Peter tells Simon, the ex-sorcerer: “Thy money persih with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou has neither part nor lot i this matter: for they heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray for God, if perphaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I percieve that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of inquity.”
This seems to fit with your definition of murder as “anger, labeling, damning.” How do you reconcile this scripture with your posting? :0



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Scot McKnight

posted November 14, 2005 at 11:03 pm


Max,
How do you connect the two?



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Scot McKnight

posted November 14, 2005 at 11:04 pm


Mark,
Say that again — I’m not real sure of the connection between the two parts of the question.



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Mark

posted November 14, 2005 at 11:13 pm


I made a bit of a jump in my questioning (that’s what happens when you start the question before dinner, get caught up with Monday night football pre-game and then come back to the writing!).
Talking about reconciliation got me to thinking about justice (broadly . . . justice within society). It seems like reconciliation should be one aspect of justice, but justice entails more. Justice might also include some punitive measure, or a redistribution.
Would anger also be fueling a desire for justice?
I hope this clears up my question.



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Max

posted November 14, 2005 at 11:25 pm


Well Scot,
I like the way you are questioning my question. In short, it seems that you are saying that in the economy of the Kingdom of God, anger is equivalent to murder. You get no argument out of me on that point, but this scripture reveals an Ambassador of the kingdom giving a new believer a strong rebuke. He is telling him to go to hell (JB Phillips translation), that he is reprobate, bound up in sin and needs to repent. So, it sounds like Peter is saying this brother’s repentance will mean reconciliation with God and the body of Christ. What are your thoughts? Is Peter being judgmental and murderous?
Here is Phillips’s translation:
“To hell with you and your money (these words are exactly what the Greek means)! How dare you think you could buy the gift of God? You can have no share or place in this ministry, for your heart is not honest before God. All you can do now is to repent of this wickedness of yours and pray earnestly to God that the evil intention of your heart may be forgiven. For I can see inside you, and I see a man bitter with jealously and bound to his own sin!”



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Max

posted November 14, 2005 at 11:47 pm


BTW-Seeing as you are the scholar in this area. I’m really interested in hearing you reconcile the SOM on this count, and Peter’s actions. Is there a tension here? I’m mean Peter literally damns the guy.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 15, 2005 at 8:19 am


Justice as the sense of vengeance, so it seems to me, Jesus would be eliminating. The painful necessity of punishment, though, is taught by Jesus.



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Max

posted November 15, 2005 at 8:33 am


Wisdom. I’ve received some of that, huh. Well, I’m glad that you are available as a resource.
I like T. Kuhn’s phrase “the essential tension,” which happens to be a title of one of his books. For me, it encapsulates something we believers often miss. We tend to get lopsided on one end of things or the other. Thanks again for your response.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 15, 2005 at 9:12 am


Max,
The issue on Peter and the words of Jesus shows that Jesus’ words are not “laws.” Jesus himself uttered potent condemning words to others (“this generation”; Matt 12; 23, etc), and show that there is a time to condemn — but the impulse, so Jesus is saying, is to begin with reconciliation. Peter said what needed to be said.
We cannot be so reconciling that we are undiscerning; nor so discerning we cannot find our way to reconciliation.



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Ted Gossard,

posted November 15, 2005 at 10:21 pm


Yes, the note on reconciliation.
Not an easy note always. I know by experience.
But the grace (and truth) notes will come if we hold on to grace and truth in that order- over time.
After all, our stand for truth needs always to be done so in love (“truth and love” in John’s letters; “the Jesus Creed”).



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