“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
– Matthew 5: 38-48 NIV
We are nearing the end of our exciting study of If God Is Love, with only one chapter left. The group has decided to continue our discussions and we’ve already agreed on our next selection.
Sunday’s discussion was about chapter 9, which dealt with gracious justice. The author immediately referred to the terrorist attack on 9/11/01 and how the religious community as a whole rallied behind a violent response to the horror. He remembered hearing a television minister describe Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek as only being about social relationships, not international or political ones. Being a strong pacifist, he disagreed.
The author feels that America needs to reexamine its foreign policy of interfering in and exploiting other countries for our own benefit. He believes that our response to the attacks will only create more people that hate us and our way of life. He describes the reputation that America has in much of the world, one garnered from television and movies that depicts us as gluttonous and immoral.
The writer doesn’t believe that Jesus was only referring to our personal interactions when he said we should turn the other cheek, but that the command applies to all relationships. Following the advice is actually empowering, because the power of choice returns to the victim. Offering to go the second mile before being ordered can also bring shame upon the asker.
During our discussion, Karen made the statement that “Nonviolence is very active”. Pacifism isn’t necessarily about laying down and taking abuse, as it can be a powerful form of justice – one that enlightens the offender to their wrongdoing.
The author says that most people think turning the other cheek is crazy, but just because we don’t like some of the things that Jesus taught, we should still abide by them if we are going to call ourselves “Christians”. I agree with this way of thinking, but must wonder why the author doesn’t take Jesus’ teachings about hell seriously, as well.
Here are some of my favorite lines from this reading:
Punishment is only a recognition that there has been injury – not a means of bringing healing. When punishment simply multiplies pain and injury, it serves no legitimate purpose.
Punishing terrorists while ignoring economic inequalities is like swatting flies while standing in sewage.
Though there are no excuses for what happened on September 11, there is also no excuse for the apathy of the rich and powerful.
Ideally speaking, nonviolence is supposed to be conducted in such a way that both sides come to see the injustice as a disadvantage and a dishonor to both, and they then agree to work together to remedy things. (Thomas Merton)
Our task is not to humiliate the ones who cause pain and injustice, but to help them recognize that we are human beings like them, with equal value.
Violence is incapable of redeeming our world.