Transforming Triads in the Sermon on the Mount

The latter part of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is seen by many as a reinterpretation of the Mosaic Law.  Many write this part off as high-minded idealism, however they are actually a concrete plan for deliverance from the vicious cycles legalism sets up.  Glen Stassen, in Just Peacemaking, uses the musical term triad to describe the way Jesus phrases these teachings.  A triad is the name for a musical chord of three interrelated tones.  What Jesus does is state first the traditional law, then the cycle this creates.  After naming the mechanism of bondage, Jesus gives the alternative or transforming initiative.  Christ’s insight is that even good laws obeyed apart from the Spirit carries with it a way to entrap people.

1.  You shall not kill

      You still nurse anger and accusation

      Go be reconciled first

2.  You shall not commit adultery

      Fantasy and lusting continue

      Way of seeing needs radical surgery


3.  Men may divorce by writ of dismissal

       This is one sided adultery

       Call to equality in dialogue


4.  Do not take oaths

      Legal swearing only binds you into loyalty system and mistrust

      Keep your language simple and personal


5. “Eye of eye” morality as justice

      De facto vengeance and violence

      You change the rules of the game


6.  Love “family” and ignore others

      Gets us nowhere and keeps love small

      Love the outsider and practice praying for them


7.  Give alms to the poor  

       Maintains supierior moral image

       Do it secretly to avoid public payoff


8.  Pray

      Be wary of socal perks

      Behind the door, no public reward


9.  More prayer will talk God into it

      Creates false “controlling” relationship with God

      OUR FATHER rightly names relationship


10.  Fasting

         Dour, dismal, and overy serious religious people

         Do it for the truth, not the payoff


11.  Don’t hoard

         Greed never satisfies

         Spiritual investment lasts


12.  Can’t serve both God and the System

        You remain divided and enslaved

        It isn’t about “hot sins” but about daily anxiety


13.  Do not judge

         Gives false sense of control instead of truth and love

         Seeing differently and forgiving 


14.  Don’t throw peals before swine

        People not ready misunderstand and turn on you

        Ask, search, know, pray, wait.  God will give good things in time


Each of these triads are very simple statements about incredibly complex issues.  I will write more in depth about each of these in the next several posts.


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