December 10, 2006

Not for the Nebbishy

I used to think that Christianity was for the nebbishy. Being a Christian, I thought, meant that you were supposed to avoid confrontation and just ignore it when people wronged you.

Someone spreads a lie about you—just ignore it. A family member is rude to you—just ignore it. Your boss treats you unfairly—just ignore it.

This view seemed to be biblical. Had not the Lord himself commanded us to turn the other cheek to our enemies? Had he not instructed us to hand over our cloak should someone steal our tunic? (Whatever the hell a tunic is.)

Although I still believe that Jesus wants us to love our enemies, I no longer take this as an injunction to be a wimp. Jesus himself was not a wimp. No, he was a confronter, a scrapper, a fighter.

When people refused to believe his message, he condemned them. “Woe to you, Capernaum! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day! But I tell you it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!”

When the chief priests questioned Jesus’ authority, he told a parable that likened them to a gang of murderers.

When confronted with the sins of the religious teachers and Pharisees, he cast upon them his now famous Seven Woes. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean!”

How does all this square with Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek? Simple. Yes, Christians are called to turn the other cheek, but this doesn’t mean that we’re not, at the same time, called to fight. Christians are called to fight evil. We’re just not to fight evil with evil.

That’s my conclusion anyway.

If someone spreads a lie about you, it’s not okay to spread a lie about them—but it is okay to stand up and expose their wrongdoing. If a family member is rude to you, it’s not okay to be rude to them—but is okay to confront them and criticize their behavior. If your boss treats you unfairly, it’s not okay to treat him unfairly—but it is okay to defend yourself and challenge him.

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