I'm supposed to be coming at Matthew with new eyes, but I can't help but note that every time I get to Matt. 5 I feel a bit like I'm approaching the the tallest, hardest passage in the Bible. Jesus spends a lot of time over the next three chapters (5-7) talking about how there was such-and-such a rule that people were to follow, and now there is an even HIGHER standard in the Jesus way. I used to think that it was a sermon meant to just show everyone exactly how they were failing and that they could never live up to the God standard. Now, I'm not so sure.
Jesus spends some time talking about anger, and saying that we are at risk even when we start to talk about what a dork someone is. I mean, who can live up to this standard?? But taking a cue from Tom Wright, I sort of see what Jesus is saying in a different light than I used to--Jesus is suggesting that as much as possible we are making friends with other people, bringing them into a good, healthy relationship. Wright says that as we allow anger to fester, we become less of the people God has made us to be--there is a sense in which we become less human.
I really struggle with this. I'm someone who really hates conflict, and I don't like say things to people that they might not want to hear, so I can be very guilty of allowing my own anger to fester since I don't want to say anything. I sense a call from God in this passage to be willing to speak up, but not in a way that seeks revenge or tries to hurt another person the way I've been hurt, but in a way that allows me to be on the other person's side while also being on my own side. In fact, I suppose Jesus' point is that we're all on the same side, so approach conflict in that spirit. This sounds really good and wonderful and happy, but in reality it is really hard and demands just a ton of maturity--more maturity than I think I have. I want to get to the pace where I am able to say to someone, "What you did was not okay, but let's work together so we can get to a place where our relationship is okay." Jesus help me.