Monday, February 11, 2013

Getting Cheeky and the Illusion of Safety

I turned a bad moment in fourth grade into a worse moment by getting cheeky. My gym teacher kicked me out of class for unnecessary roughness in game of Mat Ball. I reacted to a perceived injustice--getting called Out when I thought I was Safe. I pushed and screamed and earned a seat in the hall. When my teacher came to address my nasty attitude, I poured more fuel on the fire. I called her a bitch. No matter that she was a student teacher. No matter that I muttered the phrase under my breath. I was wrong, and I learned a few lessons that day.

  • Bad breath carries in school hallways;
  • Student teachers have feral ears and menacing eyes;
  • Retaliation is a gross sport.
More than once I've wished I could travel back in time and encourage the cheeky, childhood version of myself that getting the last word does not reform the world. (I have to remind myself now.) Injustice will reign in spite of my snappy comebacks and counter punches. The principle of lex talionis does not produce a more just world, but one of bruised cheeks and gaping smiles.

Jesus challenged the common practice (and animal instinct) of retaliation. His wisdom sounded counter-intuitive. "Do not resist an evil person. Do not punch back. Don't cling to your possessions when being robbed or stripped by immanent domain. Give more and go farther than anyone asks of you" (para, Matt. 5:38-42).

Jesus sounded more like a modern day Mennonite than militia men in my neighborhood. He would not have jumped on the campaign trail to protect the Second Amendment. He would have been too busy walking the Via Delarossa.

Sadly, we're more inclined to fight for our rights than the "exceeding righteousness" demanded in the Sermon on the Mount. I can understand. Muttering in the hallway has always been easier than walking the extra mile. But Jesus doesn't call us to sit down and defend ourselves. He call us to run with abandon. Safety is not guaranteed for Christ followers.

Reflections on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (5th in the series of 6 antitheses)

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