There are times when I’m struck by what I read in scripture, forced to stop and think about where I’m going, about whether my life is consistent with what I claim to believe. Take this passage, for instance, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person.”
Jesus establishes here the centerpiece of Christian peacemaking. But I’ve taken a different path, standing up for my rights, demanding justice when I know I’ve been wronged. And Christian culture applauds. Why is that?
Maybe it’s because turning the other cheek, walking an extra mile or sacrificing the shirt off our backs is too high a moral demand. These things only make the problem worse. After all, such actions reward evildoers. We must destroy those who are evil before they destroy us.
This is the argument we used for fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, for ousting Saddam Hussein, for looking into Iran’s nuclear power program. We fear death because we do not have faith in Jesus’ promise of eternal life.
What about our neighbors? Even if we can’t defend ourselves, shouldn’t we stand up for the weak and powerless? When Peter answered this question with the slice of an ear, Jesus rebuked him and healed the wound. And Jesus didn’t fight for the sake of his children. What about the woman caught in adultery? Jesus invited the crowd to throw rocks. And that incident in the temple courts? Jesus didn’t harm anything more than our sense of decorum.
In spite of all this, our arguments continue. We delve into semantic issues, claiming that “Thou shalt not kill” really means “Thou shalt not murder.” Everyone knows that military intervention is different from the actions of a serial killer. For one thing, it’s more efficient.
So what do we do when our arguments fail? We ignore the issue and go on with our lives. Let someone else take care of it.
That’s what I’ve done.
I don’t think God is pleased.
Even if we can’t defend ourselves, shouldn’t we stand up for the weak and powerless?