Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cheek To Cheek

My Bible classes have studied the Sermon on the Mount recently. The teachings of Jesus become difficult when we get to the love your enemies and don't retaliate lessons. Here is an entry on the subject from December 17, 2006.

Turning the other cheek took a beating last night. In separate incidents in the world of sports, we witnessed once again the disdain with which Jesus' teaching is regarded. In a football game pitting the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons, Terrell Owens admitted spitting on DeAngelo Hall but justified his actions due to inflammatory comments from his opponent. At basketball's shrine, New York's Madison Square Garden, a flagrant foul escalated into a full-scale brawl between the hometown Knicks and the Denver Nuggets. All ten players on the court at the time of the fracas were ejected. Suspensions are expected tomorrow, the biggest undoubtedly to be handed to the Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony, who happens to be the leading scorer in the National Basketball Association. The price of pugilism has soared with crackdowns and fines in the professional leagues but it does not seem to have acted much as a deterrent. The players always apologize the next day but the damage is done. France possibly lost the World Cup this July in soccer when their best player, Zidane, was kicked out of the match with Italy for head-butting Italian Gennaro Gattuso. The flashpoint? Gattuso allegedy made a remark as to the characteristics of Zidane's sister. France never recovered and fell to their rivals in a shootout. To many, Zidane's stellar career will be defined by that one second in time. It was an expensive tick of the clock.

Recently, my sophomore classes finished a series of five quizzes covering Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. As we concluded, I had the students write a paragraph on what they considered the most difficult teaching contained in Jesus' best known sermon and why it was so challenging. Half chose the related topics of loving your enemies/forgiving your enemies/turning the other cheek to your enemies. Undoubtedly, Jesus saw a need to address anger and retaliation two hundred decades ago and the need for a refresher course is strong. The kids know that society mocks those who do not fight back as weak and that defending yourself is perceived as a guaranteed right in almost any circumstance. These teenagers are open about their own struggles dealing with those who wound them and their subsequent efforts to define what exactly what Jesus meant. Here are a few examples of their thoughts.

"In today's society, we are taught to fight back and not let anyone walk all over us. It is hard to turn the other cheek because after it's over, no one recognizes that you did the right thing."

"Your enemies will continue to hate you but your trying to bless them? To me, that's like constantly pinching yourself, knowing it's going to hurt but doing it anyway."

"How can you turn the other cheek when someone has just hit you? This is something I need to work on. Maybe I just need to hang around people who don't stir up problems."

"Loving your enemy is hard because you want to make their life miserable like they have made yours. Turning the other cheek is hard because I do not know how to forgive."

I really like what these kids said. Isn't admission is always the the first step in changing? Maybe if they showed some clips on ESPN of athletes walking away from confrontation it would help but that isn't likely to happen. I love the scene in To Kill A Mockingbird where Atticus Finch simply wipes his face after the despicable Bob Ewell spits on him. I must admit, I wanted Atticus to floor that redneck...but that would have destroyed who Atticus Finch was. To strike back would have made Atticus and Bob Ewell equals. Jesus did not respond in kind when he was beaten, mocked, spat upon, and put to death. For some odd reason, Jesus wants me to mimic that behavior. That's tough. I haven't even caught up to Atticus Finch yet... and he's fictional.

Applicable quote of the day:
"I don't deserve any credit in turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it."
Flannery O'Connor

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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