For years, I have heard some of my brothers and sisters in
Christ appealing for a totally non-violent approach to life. I like the idea and wish somehow this could
be our reality in every circumstance. I
dislike the thought of having violence as an option in life.
One of the most beautiful and challenging sections of
scripture is the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus nails all of us in this discourse.
He dismantles all the religious games we play with each other trying to
make everyone think we have our act together.
In that message Jesus was telling his followers to stop trying to fake
everyone out with their attempts at self-righteousness.
No one gets a pass with Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus
said if we look at a woman with lust we have committed adultery. If we get
angry with someone we are a murderer. If we curse someone we are guilty of
hell. Nailed. Everyone. You and me, included.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus also said if our offending
eye causes us to sin, gouge it out. If
our hand causes us to sin, cut it off.
This is radical stuff. Jesus also
said, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer them the other side.”
I have noticed there are a lot of Christians out there with
two good eyes and two good hands. It
seems they might not be taking Jesus too literally. There appears to be in all of us the ability
to be selectively obedient. We have the
amazing ability to select how we choose to obey God’s Word and then make sure
everyone else does it our way.
Recently, I heard someone say that a Christian should always
turn the other cheek if attacked. As
they spoke I noticed they were looking through two good eyes. I am guessing they had lived a perfect life
and never looked at a member of the opposite sex with lust. I am also guessing that neither of their
hands ever did anything harmful to another person. They seemed very intact as they lectured the
As this conversation went on this person demanded the other
Christian lay down their right to self-defense in any form. I found it ironic
how talented we have become in telling each other how to live. We can even find
scripture to back up our point of view.
In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus made all these
bizarre comparisons, I think he was really saying, “Would you be willing to live
this way? For the sake of my kingdom, would you be willing to dislike the way you
looked at that woman in lust so much that you would pluck out your
eyes? Would you be so repelled by the
way you touched another person you would be willing to cut off your hand?”
Jesus wasn’t asking us to pluck out our eyes or cut off our
hands. He was asking if our love for him
were so passionate that it would appear this radical. Thankfully, we have no evidence of Jesus’ first
followers plucking or cutting anything. If that were the requirement to follow
Jesus I would have lost both my hands at age two and both eyes during the early
stages of puberty.
Regarding the turning of our cheeks to a violent act, I
think the Lord was asking this question in the same vain as the questions he
raised about offending eyes and hands. Would
I be this willing for the sake of his kingdom?
I get nervous when we make a One-Size-Fits-All-Jesus and
apply him to a One-Response-Fits-All-Circumstances. This lesser image of Jesus
has been used to validate things Jesus never intended.