Re: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sun Nov 08 2009 - 22:42:35 EST

Dehler, Bernie wrote:
> Pete said:
> "Yes, Jesus was correct. Next question."
> Next question, regarding specific application:
> Pete, suppose someone is mad at you and slaps you very hard across the face, so hard as to even knock out a tooth.
> Which would be the best Christian response for you (as an immediate "next step" response in this confrontation):
> A. Turn the other cheek, making it easy for them to strike again
> B. Defend yourself against another attack and/or try to leave
> C. Strike back to "teach them a lesson"
> If you don't like those options, and think there is another one, please specify.
> ...Bernie
I don't mean to answer for Pete here --I'm quite sure he can answer for
himself. But I still don't think you're getting it Bernie. You seem to
want an "ultimate formula", and you fail to see that this is probably a
contradiction in terms. You want the perfect law? What you'll get is
messy love. What would radical love do in a situation? I could imagine
any of the above three options (plus others besides probably) being
motivated by a divinely enabled true love for your enemy, except option
C possibly just because we seem so incapable of doing that apart from
motivations of hatred or vengeance. But I wouldn't preclude physical
engagement with an opponent, particularly if a motivation to love &
protect others was behind your action.

By the way, the turning of the other cheek has been "explicated" by some
as having the cultural significance of an inferior presenting the
supposed "superior" with the left cheek necessitating that the next slap
would have to come from the left hand thereby meaning an acknowledgment
of equality on the part of a slapper. This adds an undercurrent of
defiance to the whole affair. Also, heaping burning coals on someone's
head might not have been an act of torture or destruction if understood
in a different cultural context --or walking the second mile with a
soldier could actually get the soldier in trouble, etc. Now I've
always been a little suspicious of modern attempts to make these
scenarios "more palatable" to our current sensibilities, but since I've
heard a theologians I respect say these things, I'm willing to go with
it. So we aren't necessarily being called to be doormats --fine. But
if we fool ourselves into thinking for a moment that such actions can
legitimately be motivated by anything short of love --TRUE love-- for
our enemies, then I think we are emptying Jesus' words of their power.
He is asking us to do the near impossible: not enough to just not do
the act of committing adultery --can't even look or think about it; not
enough to merely keep an oath --don't even swear at all and always be
honest and faithful in the first place, etc. I wonder if part of
Jesus' motivation in springing the bar so high was that some folks
fancied they could meet the old expectations and pass on their own
merits. Jesus essentially responds "Oh --so you think THAT'S what the
law was about all this time? --a method to justify yourselves?" "Well
let me tell you! Not only have you not even managed to follow that law
completely --here's what you would really have to do and be if you want
to justify yourselves by your own efforts!" And then Jesus gives his
sermon which should leave everyone alike feeling pretty inadequate to
say the least. And from this we should learn that our legalism is dead
in the water --a pile of self-righteous crap. And Jesus points us
towards the real intent of the law (it's fulfillment that it couldn't
deliver us to, but could at least point us towards) and that is that we
would love God and love our neighbor --the kind of love that would lay
down its life. And humbly accepting God's Grace revealed in Christ is
the only faltering step we can even take --and that only with God's
help. Then we begin to internalize this radical love and the law is
fulfilled in God's love in us. We still have the old legalisms that dog
our sinful selves, but we have a different Spirit that gently begins to
prod us to act differently than we normally want to when we feel injured
by someone. And THAT is the arrangement that actually delivers us where
the law could not. And Love probably doesn't give us very many
"formulas" -- or when we do recognize some useful things that rank
pretty close to formulas we are probably leery of granting them absolute
status and reducing love to mere legalism again.

p.s. imagine a father who loves his son but then asking "what is the
minimum I can do for my son and still be considered a good father?"
Those who want the formula are essentially doing exactly the same
thing. What can I get away with? Jesus sighs, and then patiently
persists in trying to get through...

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Received on Sun Nov 8 22:43:09 2009

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