“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person!”
“If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.”
“If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.”
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!”
“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?”
– Excerpts from Matt 5:38-48
I am always grateful for the intellectual and spiritual stimulation that happens – without fail – every time I spend an hour in deep conversation with the small groups and classes I help facilitate at WFPC.
The sense of community seems especially meaningful when we find ourselves navigating one of those “difficult” scriptures. You know, the passages we would rather skip because they make us uncomfortable.
It helps of course that these conversations happen in an atmosphere of trust, of grace, of encouragement, and of love. And of covenant, too. Sometimes I think (actually, I know) that the destructive exchanges that play out between so many Americans would have a better chance of turning into productive conversations if only we got to know one another first, and then played out our dialogue in a covenantal framework. Otherwise – and this is worth considering – what exactly is the point?
Anyway, Wednesday evening’s conversation bounced around one of the hardest sections of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 (verses 38-48).
But this is so hard!
Jesus comes across – in a word – as unreasonable! The law – according to Jesus – misses the point – misses its own point. Instead of “an eye for an eye,” or retaliation, or taking someone to court, Jesus says we are supposed to love our enemies, work hard to help people who wrong us, and “turn the other cheek” if we get punched in the face!
But this is not how the world works! What on earth is the Lord suggesting?
Jesus the activist!
We enjoyed some great conversation – and some honest confession – around this. Then, when someone was wondering what good it ever does to walk away from a fight or “give in” to the bad guys, Robert offered one of the best take aways the evening had to offer.
I’m paraphrasing, and maybe fleshing it out a little, but this is essentially what Robert had to say: “Jesus isn’t promoting pacifism at all; what he’s really teaching us is activism. Jesus is in fact suggesting that we do retaliate….”
I’ll let that sink in for a moment, let the ostensibly offensive idea of Jesus retaliating when he gets punched in the face work its way into your consciousness… But Robert wasn’t done.
“The startling thing about Jesus is how he is teaching us to retaliate. Pacifism would have us walk away and disengage; the Jesus kind of activism invites us to retaliate with active, transformational, love.”
Oh there’s more. But if that isn’t enough to stir your thoughts and prayers and actions today then I probably need to abandon this blog!
Peace, and the kind of love that is loaded with activism – DEREK