rollinsi am busy reading and loving and being completely challenged by the book ‘The Orthodox Heretic and other impossible tales’ by Peter Rollins.

the first story from the book that i shared i titled ‘a parable to slap you in the face’ which you can read here and it is completely that…

and as much as i want to pretty much copy down every story from the book, but can’t, i would like to share another one in the hopes that it will encourage you to get hold of this book and read the rest of it for yourself.

oh, and some of you will be tempted to start formulating your argument to this story or the principle it is suggesting, as you are reading it, but i encourage to try and open your mind and heart and invite the Holy Spirit to really help you to honestly hear what is being said and test whether it might be something you need to hear and act on…

TURN THE OTHER CHEEK

WE STOOD AT A DISTANCE, WATCHING. We looked on silently as Jesus took His place on the top of a mound, waiting patiently for those who had gathered to settle themselves. We looked with a certain displeasure and discomfort at the disorderly mob that surrounded Him. There must have been hundreds of people pushing in to hear His words, most of them poor and hungry. The place was brimming over with the sck and the dispossessed, the widow and the orphan, the ones without a voice and without hope. We watched as Jesus looked at them with compassion and prayer peace into their lives. As He stood before them, we heard Him pronounce blessing upon those who are poor in spirit, for those who are mourning, for those who are meek, for those who are merciful despite their hardships, those who are pure in spirit, and upon those who seek peace rather than war. 

But Jesus also challenged them saying, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” He said to them, “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. If someone forces you to carry their pack one mile, carry it two. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” Then He finished by saying, “Do to others as you would have them do to you. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

When He had finished, He turned toward the west, where we were sitting, we who have the power, who have the authority, and who have a voice. For a time He just stared at us, then He approached and addressed us directly: “Do not be mistaken, these words are not for you.”

Then Jesus raised His voice and said, “I am sending you an infinitely more difficult message.” 

A time is coming, when those you now treat as enemies and slaves will show you nothing but love in return, when those who you curse with indifference will offer you blessing. When you slap these people on the right cheek, be prepared for they will turn their left cheek toward you. When you steal their cloak, they will offer you their tunic. And when you demand that they carry your possessions for one mile, they will freely carry those possessions for two. They will give freely what you demand from them, and they will not seek to gain back what you have stolen from them. They will treat you as you would long to be treated. You will judge them but they will not judge you. You will condemn them but they will not condemn you.

Before leaving us He finished by saying, “These people are my message to you. Heed this message and you will live. Ignore it, and you will perish.”

Commentary:

Whenever we open up our Bible and read that Jesus commands us to love those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and repay evil with kindness, it is easy to apply this to our daily interaction with others. However, these teachings were not given to people like us [by us I mean people who can afford to buy this book and are educated enough to be able to read it [or have computers and be able to be reading this blog – Brett Fish]. These were not spoken primarily for the powerful to apply as middle-class modern platitudes. They were spoken to the powerless, whose country was under occupation and whose very lives were under constant threat. 

It is likely that, like me, you do not face the kind of persecution that Jesus’ original listeners faced. Indeed the unpalatable truth may well be that we are the ones who oppress the type of people that Jesus spoke with – not directly with hatred in our hearts, but indirectly through the clothes we buy, the coffee we drink, the investments we make, and the cars that we drive. By reading these words in an affluent, Western setting we can so easily domesticate the words of Jesus to the extent that they become little more than advice on how to treat a shop assistant or a passerby.

In the above story I attempt to undermine the reduction of Christ’s words to the level of inane politeness by drawing out how the words are directed towards the oppressed rather than towards the oppressors. In this way I am attempting to remind myself that these words are spoken to those people whom I hurt and destroy through the choices I make on a daily basis, and that I am merely overhearing them. In the above story, I ask myself to imagine what Jesus would say to me if I had been there at the time. Would He address me with the words “If someone takes your cloak, give them your tunic as well”? Or would He be more likely to address me with the admonition “Stop stealing from the poor”?

Wo. Right between the eyes hey?

There are two unhelpful responses to reading this story:

# One of them is taking on a whole bunch of woe-is-me condemnation and just feeling bad or guilty for a while until it wears off… as opposed to perhaps being convicted to some extent and looking for some areas in your life that might require change [the products you buy for starters – why not begin with your coffee, chocolate, clothes, groceries, cleaning products?]

# The second response is to dismiss the whole story as twisting the words of Jesus to say something He wasn’t [this is an interpretation of the events and seems to speak to address the context quite effectively and i would agree that Pete’s ensuing questions are ones we should be asking and answering with much love and wisdom]

The helpful one would be to take time to really hear what it is saying, test whether the message is for you and the respond appropriately.

So continue to turn the other cheek if you believe that is what Jesus is saying to you through this story… but also be alert for where you need to be the one to stop slapping it…

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