You Call That Turning The Other Cheek?

Shane Claiborne said once “How ironic is it to see a bumper sticker that says ‘Jesus is the answer’ next to a bumper sticker supporting the war in Iraq, as if to says ‘Jesus is the answer – but not in the real world.”  In my neck of the woods, you don’t see that as much as you might see a bumper sticker like this on one side:


while on the other, you’ll see this:


Doesn’t really fit does it?  In Matthew 5:39, Jesus said “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”  Now, I’m just guessing here, but if He wants us to let an assault on our person slide, He’s probably not okay with us shooting someone who’s taking our property.  Call me crazy, but that’s my take on that passage. 

Another place where this disconnect about violence rears its ugly head is the death penalty.  This is one of the places where I’m not a very good progressive;I’m torn on this issue.  Growing up in the south, I was taught that there are some people who need killing; in fact, there’s a common joke that many places in the southern states accept that as a valid defense.  However, that rubs up against my Christian belief that I am to forgive everyone, every time, for everything.  And, there’s the unequal application of the death penalty.  Basically, if you’re poor, you’re screwed.  And, if you’re black and poor, you’re really screwed.  But, a lot of people don’t see it that way.  In any debate on the subject, you’ll hear good, Christian people argue fervently in favor of taking the lives of their fellow-man and think nothing of it.  Most often cited in support of state sponsored execution is the passage in Exodus 21 which stipulates death for anyone who kills anyone else.  The thing is, with Jesus, we’ve progressed beyond the idea of retribution and moved on to forgiveness.  Or, at least, we’re supposed to; it’s not looking much like that these days.  From people demonstrating in favor of the execution to the big-ass party that followed the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, we’re still in love with getting even. 

To all that, I can only point to what Jesus had to say about retribution and confrontation in the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”  Matthew 5:38-48