Monday, April 5, 2010

Fools For the Christ

The Simple Mind is away from the computer.

"Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you, and utter every kind of slander against you because of me." Bible, St. Matthew 5:11

When in the park land of the world, in the gardens or the towns, wherever, turn the other cheek, commands the Christ. It does seems a fool thing; however perhaps it is the most appropriate thing for a disciple to do when faced with unwarranted aggression and basic disrespect from others. Most often when there is the impulse to retaliate, the aggressor is responding to a past, perceived slight or insult. They may be emotionally hurt, or they may be quite imaginary in their thinking. In the first incident, recalls Anthony Gittins in his book, Come Follow Me, "these words of the Christ assumes that the recipient of the blow is an innocent party... the recipient of the blow being completely taken aback by the unprovoked aggression." Anyone so deeply committed as a disciple is likely to antagonize the less responsible, the less committed members of any given community.

As the former Saul, now Saint Paul knew, discipleship entails risk. The bible book, 1 Corinthians 4:10 records, 'we are fools on the Christ's account. Ah, but in Christ you are wise! We [the people of Corinth] are the weak ones, you are the strong! They honor you while they sneer at us.' Considering the aftermath or consequences of such exchanges is possibility. The possibility that courage may enter into the equation, that the way to justice may become clearer, that growth of discipleship may lead to faith, to peace.

The possibility that the world may be unified as one in the Lord, that nations may beat swords into plowshares is part and parcel of the radical directives of the Christ. In preaching and teaching, Jesus challenged the status quo of first century C.E. Palestine, a world where "honor was accrued or defended through fighting or contesting. If someone was looking for a fight, he is anticipating being the winner, either by causing his opponent to withdraw and thereby being shamed, or making a loser out of him, and shaming him. If the would-be opponent retaliates... the drama proceeds until winner and loser are determined. So, what if the opponent fails to either retaliate or withdraw?" Instead, he turns the other cheek, then dominance can only be realized by bullying, or by an unfair fight.

This does not however, honor an aggressor; rather it shames him. Without a fair fight, the would-be aggressor is forced into a potentially uncomfortable position; he may even be required to apologize to restore the community. Jesus rejected the entire 'honor system' of the ancient world in which he lived. He exposes a world built on honor and shame as false; he teaches for the good. He unmasks the  world built upon the poverty of an 'eye for an eye,' the moral rule widely in force during his time.

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