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New signposts: Relationships

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

by Katy Lines

Matthew 5:21-26

Walking on the Jesus way, sitting on the hillside path, Jesus adds some graffiti to well-known signposts. Under the arrow pointing to Do Not Murder, he scribbles in detailed local knowledge, like how we know that to get to Dearborn Street from the church’s building, you turn right at Johnny’s Glass, even though Johnny’s Glass has long been gone from that overgrown corner. This old signpost marked with Jesus’s new challenge specifies that the direction of Jesus’s Way travels through our hearts, our personal interior lives.

Most of us aren’t thrilled with the journey through introspection. We are uncomfortable with trails into our motives. We’d much rather stay on the ring-road of I-465, the laws and rules and checklists that give us permission to avoid the urban potholes and “dangerous crime-riddled” parts of our interior lives.

But if we are part of God’s household, Jesus says, we’ve got to make our way towards one another. Jesus’s graffiti reads like this: are you angry with a sibling? Go resolve it. Regardless of the other’s response, forgiveness is the first step in reconciliation. Is the anger justified? Jesus doesn’t say, nor does it seem to matter to him. What he does challenge though, is less the having of anger and more what we do with it. Does our anger control our relationship with others, or does it move us towards practicing forgiveness?

This is not an easy path, as anyone who travels down our flat-tire prone alleys discovers.

But if we want to live amongst each other in this place, we have to be willing to navigate our own hearts and motives. Because we will be hurt by each other— sometimes intentionally, but more often, unintentionally. We will let each other down. We will not be everything that we need from each other.

It may feel good for a while to hold on to our anger towards another; maybe we feel justified by it. But in the long run, our anger binds us, burns us, and imprisons us. This is less about proper behavior, and more about being oriented to love— love of others, love of God and the way of Jesus, love of reconciliation, healing of the world. And honestly, by orienting in love towards others, at least how I understand it, we also experience our own healing and release from being bound in anger, too.

It is the internal work of maturing, being transformed towards Christlikeness that impacts our response to the world, to one another. In this text, the maturing is towards radical forgiveness, releasing the anger we hold against others. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He adds scribbles of graffiti to other signposts— moving from external actions to internal motives. To the Do Not Commit Adultery signposts, he adds additional details of choosing to view each other as God’s image-bearers, not as objects. This is the work of aligning our desires to God’s.

Throughout this hillside message, Jesus envisions the formation of a particular kind of household or community. One that is centered on love, not power. Our anger has power over us, over our actions. But forgiveness, releasing that anger, frees us to love both others and ourselves. That is risky, I admit. But if we’re following Jesus’ trail, we see Jesus before us, taking that risk, forgiving those who denied, betrayed, and executed him. Maybe we can do likewise.

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