Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jesus, the Subversive, the Radical

The Simple Mind is away from the computer

Today, this holy day in Christianity, Holy Thursday, is the day that tradition tells of Lord, the Christ Jesus, started his walk on the long road leading to crucifixion. His crime, among others explains Anthony Gittens in his book, Come Follow Me, is that the Christ advocated 'turning the other cheek' in an ancient world where 'an eye for an eye' ruled supreme.The G-d of the Jews, of the Greeks and Romans was a just God meting out both reward and punishment in measure. Their God was merciful, but he was unlike the G-d advocated for by the Christ. The entrance of this God into the world astounded; it defied. Citizens felt compelled to act.

"Turn the other cheek," Saint Matthew writes (Matthew 5:39). "Jesus seems to be saying something like this: even if a person has so little respect for you and so much aggression toward you as to add injury to insult by viciously striking you in the face, not only should you not retaliate, you should respond by assuming a stance of vulnerability... On the face of it, this act is indeed foolish... Unquestionably, there is risk involved, since we can never precisely predict another's behavior... It is all rather difficult to understand.

"Jesus, writes Gittens, 'surely knows that discipleship entails risk. But it is also intended to renew families, relationship and communities... Jesus' demand goes far beyond every specific situation. It is general..." He calls the disciple to a higher standard so that others may see and believe. His method is counter-culture. For example, by not seeking retribution for wrong doing or legal recourse, members of the community are called instead to reconcilliation."   To the Christ the notion of the 'zero sum game' was without relevance. His Father in Heaven, whom he called upon, was without prejudice. There is no competition. Winners and losers are totally unacceptable to the Christ. God's grace is not a limited good.

And so writes Gittens, "the Jesus movement was in his time, and thereafter breaking up households. Parents frustrated with their offspring, totally unable to dissuade their children away from this new, radical life built on love, unable to shame them out of their new commitment, often struck them on the cheek." The bold, radical love of the Christ advised the proffering, then, of the other cheek. "And the world turned on its head."