"Turn the other cheek" and other systems engineering principles

In prayer this morning, God revealed to me what a good Systems Engineer His son Jesus is. As I can identify with wanting to brag on your kid, I followed that direction in my morning meditiation. I let God lead me into considering how Jesus gave expert advice for defusing dysfunctional systems.

Jesus’ “Turn the other cheek” is not just about non-violence, but about defusing escalation, addiction, fixes that fail, shifing burden, and all the other archetypical dysfunctional systems dynamics.

Let me back up. I was moving my daughter’s car out of the driveway early this morning when I caught a line from a song on the local Christian Schmaltz Station that struck me. Something about how its the second look that binds you and brings the darkness over your eyes.

The second look. Yep, I can identify with that. Sin, for me, starts with the second look, the second bite, the second unkind word. The “justified” response to evil. I tell my kids all the time that the second hit, the hit-back, is a worse offense than the original hit. The second hit elevates a bad incident into a bad pattern, which when unchecked can become a self-sustaining system dynamic with its own equilibrium that resists change.

Jesus, in Matthew 5:38-41, is telling us to resist the kinds of responses that lead to those kinds of dysfunctional traps. He wants us to be aware of our role in the dynamic and rise above it, be creative, and refuse to “play along” in the old predictable ways.

MIT’s management and strategy guru Dr. Peter Senge, gave very similar advice in the Fifth Discipline for every one of his archetypical system dysfunctions. Be aware of the system, be aware of your role, change your response. Know the game and refuse to play it by the “rules.”

I’ve posted about turning the other cheek before. But now I see this scripture in a new light. Jesus as Systems Engineer giving straight on systems advice centuries ahead of its time.

But right on time for me. My prayer today is to examine the systems I participate in, knowingly or unknowingly, my role, and how I can lovingly, creatively, and if possible playfully, refuse to play along.

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