There is much to be made in the teachings of Jesus of non-violence – even what I would call non-self-defense. Turn the other cheek; go the extra mile; if someone steals your shirt, give them your coat also; return good for evil; don’t exact revenge, let the Lord do that; be happy when you are mocked, persecuted and lied about because your reward is great in heaven.
Ahem. Who, as Christians today really believes any of this? Who is acting on it? Come on, we’re fighting for our rights, taking self-defense classes, packing pistols and telling the world “I’ve had enough and I’m not going to take anymore.” Unfortunately that’s a movie speaking, not Jesus. Jesus would say, Keep taking it because that is the way I do things. I get my will done in the world in an entirely different way than you would. I have different weapons. I use peace and love and kindness and good. An eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth is not what I came to establish. I came to establish mercy and favor that is unearned. I brought something completely foreign to your natural way of doing things. I bring a new kingdom and I have a different set of rules. I follow the law of love. Still want to follow me?
I ask myself and I ask you, was Jesus just kidding when He said all this? I mean, how many different ways is there to say this? Can there be any doubt? Is the Sermon on the Mount some sort of dispensation we don’t have to pay attention to any more? Is it a puzzle we have to decode? Certainly He doesn’t really mean everything He said there. Really?
Sheep among wolves? Do sheep defend themselves? Are these kung fu sheep? No. Sheep have a shepherd. It’s the job of the shepherd to protect them from wolves. A shepherd who lets the wolves in is a bad shepherd. We have a good shepherd.
“So what are you saying, John, that we should be wimps for Jesus?” Well I’m not so sure about the choice of words, but it might look like that to some people. If it is, it’s a wimp with a backbone. In fact, it takes great strength to NOT retaliate. It takes great courage and restraint to do what Jesus is asking us to do. I wouldn’t call that wimpy at all. Nor would I call it kung fu Christian. It’s standing tall and taking it and loving and forgiving those who are dishing it out. Isn’t that what Jesus did?
By the way, I am not speaking against national defense or the military. Even Jesus is not asking the nation to abide by the rules of His kingdom. The United States and the Kingdom of God are two entirely different things playing by different sets of rules. And I believe there is a way in which you can serve in the military and follow the kingdom Jesus is talking about in your personal life and relationships. I believe there are many who do. We have some in our Catch community.
Nor am I in a position to make all the conclusions as to what these words mean in our society and in our culture. There is room for discussion and debate here, but I am at least asking more people to acknowledge that these words and these teachings are there, they are central to what Jesus taught and stood for, and the way He acted Himself, and we have got to start paying attention to this and at least struggle with what it means to follow His example.
If you read the Sermon on the Mount and it makes you uncomfortable, then you have a ways to go in becoming a follower of Christ. I know I do. How about you?