Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Jesus a pacifist?

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,
and the Lord will reward you.

- Proverbs 25:21-22

Interesting concept. Sounds a lot like Jesus' thing about loving your enemies and praying for those that persecute you- actually a lot like turning the other cheek, going the extra mile and giving them the shirt off your back too (also Jesus, Matthew 5:38-48 & Luke 6:27-42).

I wonder if JFK was trying to use this approach when he established the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress. In Old Testament times, Egypt anyway, they'd heap coal on one's head to force a confession (torture)- but you would also put ashes on your head (perhaps some hard core ascetics and/or masochists might use actual hot coals) as a sign of contrition and repentance.

Do you think that what God (and King Solomon) are saying here, is that when we return evil with good, we allow the person's own conscience (and the Holy Spirit) to convict them of their wrong doing and/or convince them that you are a friend, not an enemy?

Or, you could try to torture them, imprison them indefinitely without cause and without fair trial, or just bomb the living Hell out of them. Because that seems to work SO well.

Sorry, that was me being snarky and judgmental and mean there- instead of loving, helping, or praying for those who disagree with me politically or philosophically (enemies in a way). Forgive me for being a two-faced hypocrite. I like to spice stuff up with a little humor and sarcasm once in a while, so my posts tend to have a little bite. It's good if it gets you to read or helps you enjoy it- it's bad if it detracts from what God has to say to you or offends you so much that you don't keep reading.

My point is this- that we Americans love our action movies, mercenaries, renegades, gangsters, cops, or cowboys. And this love for macho movies and TV may lead us to believe that we have to put the bad guys in their place, teach 'em a lesson, and defend ourselves and our honor. But God says that we're better off being patient and gentle and generous and kind.

As the now famous church marquee sign read, "Love your enemies, it messes with their heads."

MLK taught passive, not violent resistance to his protectors. So the black activists may have been criminals for violating Southern segregation laws, but when they peacefully went limp when white Klansmen and policemen were beating them and cussing and screaming at them and turning fire hoses on them which peeled their skin off and broke their ribs- who looked like the bad guys on TV?

I could be wrong about this, and it may just be my opinion- but I think if instead of invading Iraq (who had nothing to do with 9/11) and filling Guantanamo with prisoners, if instead of doing those things we had flooded Afghanistan and the Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and other Arab and Muslim countries with aid for schools for girls and hospitals for the poor, and civil engineering projects to help farmers and relief for refugees- the terrorist groups would have far fewer recruits and there would be far fewer suicide attacks on Western targets.

But maybe more importantly is how this upside-down, counter-intuitive philosophy of Jesus' (and Solomon's and St. Peter's) can make a huge difference in our daily lives.

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. -Proverbs 15:1

What if instead of tailgating or flipping off that person who cut you off, you just let it go, or even said a quick prayer for them because they're obviously either in a real hurry or just not being very careful.

What if you were friendly and congenial to that person who budged in front of you in line or was rude to you.

What is you refused to say anything but good things about that person who called you names, started rumors about you or accused you of something you didn't do?

People genuinely involved in martial arts (not extreme cage fighting or Kung Fu movies) know that Eastern philosophies dictate that the martial arts only be used in self-defense and that the secret to martial arts is balance. You have a much greater advantage if you can calmly take advantage of leverage to use an opponent's force and energy against them, rather than trying to strike them yourself. Their anger/hate/rage/aggression then becomes their weakness.

The same is true spiritually and emotionally. Jesus knows that if we love our enemies and even go so far as to come to their aid, it throws them off balance. Sin, selfishness, evil and revenge all are revealed as weakness and foolishness in the light of God's kindness, love, patience, and forgiveness. And it's like heaping hot coals on their heads. Best case scenario, God works on their hearts to humble them. Worst case scenario, it messes with their heads or at least makes them look bad.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

-Romans 12:14, 17-21

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