This is the sixth in a short series of posts. Post 1 can be accessed here. Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here. Post 3 is connected here. Post 4 is here and post 5 is here.
So as I mentioned earlier, the same day of the terrorist attach on Glasgow Airport in July 2007 we went to hear Rob Bell deliver a presentation in Glasgow entitled “Calling All Peacemakers”. What does that look like? Thank you Fourth space for sharing your notes from the talk which I have heavily plagiarised for this post!!!
Rob pointed out that the Kingdom of God is here, right now, and is present. The message of Jesus is to return (to repent) and get back into a right life. BUT: We live in an evil, dark world. A world with fighting and turmoil and pain. What does Jesus say to that?
Jesus says if someone hits you on the right cheek, turn the other one. He helpfully explained that for the Jews, the right hand was the clean hand, used for eating and handshakes. The left hand was used for…..well, not polite stuff anyway. You’d want to wash your hand. So the left hand was unclean. So you would only strike someone with your right hand, as otherwise you would be unclean. You had two options – a right hand fist to the right cheek (hitting with a fist was indicating that person was your equal – remember it was all about relative status) or secondly, to slap – to strike an unequal, with the back of your right hand; this would be done only to a slave, a minion, a soldier below you, to someone less human than you. So if someone hit you on the right cheek, then it follows that it must have been a slap as they couldn’t hit the right cheek with their right fist. To have been hit on your right cheek must have indicated that the person hitting you thought you were below them – a lesser human being. So when you turn the cheek, they would have to hit you with the fist, treating you as an equal. It was a simple way of turning things upside down of asserting that you did not consider yourself less than them and asking them to recognise that. It moved the position of the person being struck from unequal to equal. This simple action takes away power and coercion. It says, “Treats me as equal. Validate me”.
If someone takes your coat, then give your shirt also. Remember that the Jews would have had 2 layers – a shirt, then a coat. So if someone sues you and takes your coat (what if you have only that left, 80-90% tax rates at the time - Jews had been conquered, there was a big army, which was in need of high revenues, so there was a high tax on people conquered – e.g. census at Christmas for purpose of counting people). People were losing family lands. People were oppressed. People who were poor and having to get hired out hourly to work on their own land. These people were experiencing shame, humiliation and guilt. All you have left is your coat. You are poor. Jesus says to give to them your shirt also. Why? Because viewing the nakedness of another was shameful in that culture for the person who viewed it – not the person who had been stripped bare. Again, this turns things upside down. The master would then say “stop doing that”, put your clothes back on. The oppressed person is now acting, the master begging him to stop. It offered an innovative, peaceful and practical way to deal with the situation. The genius is that the aggressor may change his heart and give the coat back.
Jesus says if demanded to walk 1 mile, then go another one. Romans mastered the place, these are the people who invented crucifixion. These were not nice conquerors. Roman soldiers could demand that you walked with them, to carry their pack – even if on Sabbath, you had no choice, even if it meant being apart from your family. It treats you like an animal. BUT Roman military rules restricted this to 1 mile per person. So if you then walked another mile, the Romans had to beg you to stop – otherwise they would be in trouble with the military commanders and could face a court marshall. The Romans would have begged you to stop. A Roman wouldn’t want to be caught punishing a person who was carrying their pack. So Jesus says be fearless. Go the 2nd mile. Put the Roman in an awkward situation. Ask him to do something.
The world we live in suffers from lack of imagination.
When we suffer wrong there are 2 approaches we usually take:
1) Do nothing. Pacifism. Turn the other cheek. Take it. God loves you. Jesus gave my spine to someone else. This is not what Jesus is advocating.
2) Strike back. Pick up the sword and swing. Corresponding level of aggression. “Let me tell you about those gossips so you can pray better for them” etc. At that moment you have just lost.
Jesus is giving a 3rd way. Not passivity. 3rd way theology. Jesus pioneered non-violence. Gives us imagination.
Turn the other cheek. Do not co-operate with anything that humiliates you. Preserve the image of God. Protect the humanity. He holds out the possibility that the aggressor may have a change of heart. We can see it acted out in more modern examples e.g. Freeze practices of Danish resistance. Chose a random time, e.g. Thurs 2.07, held a 2mins freeze. Saved thousands of people, allowed thousands to escape WWII with their conscience intact.
Is there a 3rd way here today? Can I do things differently?
How can you get to the oppressor asking you to stop your innovative, non-violent and yet provocative action?
The 3rd way demonstrates tremendous creativity and massive courage.
This was first seen as an icon 300-400AD, funnily enough the same time as the Romans died out. Crucifixion was a genius tool for oppressors - kills people, they suffer for a time, most people can see it and heed its warning. The cross only became art when people who had seen crucifixion died out. – YET WE SING SONGS OF THE CROSS & ITS POWER. HAD COSMIC IMPLICATIONS FOR FIRST CHRISTIANS. GOD RECONCILES ALL THINGS TO HIMSELF THROUGH THE CROSS. God makes peace with all things. Very real reconciliation. The work has been done, it’s about trust through the cross & resurrection.
BUT REMEMBER THAT THIS RECONCILIATION REFERRED TO ALL THINGS. Reconciliation – trusting Jesus is where it starts. The cross is our personal encounter with Jesus. Christ wants to put each of us back together. The cross is the only hope.
As church experiences shalom together He works inside us, bonds us to others. We then understand we need to bring shalom to the world. God wants to reconcile himself to all things.
The world today
- 6bn people
- USA 300m
- UK 60m
This is only 8% of the world population.
- 1 billion people do not have clean drinking water
- 2.6bn people do not have adequate sanitation – leads to lower immune rates etc
- 780-800m people are hungry due to no food
- 2.2bn children. 1bn live in poverty (absence of basic necessities)
- 2bn no electricity
- 80% live in sub-standard housing
- 1bn can not read or sign their name
- Wealthiest 1% have same net worth as poorest 57%
- 1bn people live off <$1/day
- 2bn more <$2/day
THIS IS NOT SHALOM
- 20% of the world consume 86% of world’s resources
In Rwanda there was a woman who was very poor – a micro-finance loan was given, she bought a stall, built house & owns it, uniforms & food for kids & they go to school. She was able to pay the loan back. $40 loan. Given to someone else. Etc etc. For these particular series of talks Rob Bell was offering £1 off the ticket price and that £1 went to turami, to micro-finance in Burundi where $90 is the average annual income. The repayment rate on micro-finance loans is 98-99% globally.
All the spare money from the speaking tour went to turami. Lets set out to bring shalom. Catch a vision for being a peacemaker. Bring shalom to the world.
Peace & Shalom.