Turning the other cheek by Peter Rollins

31 Jan

Peter Rollins has word processed a fan-tab-u-lous book titled The Orthodox Heretic and other impossible tales (2009, Paraclete Press)

My favorite parable from the collection is about “turning the other cheek.” In pages 19-23, Rollins sets the scene.

We are standing and watching Jesus address a disorderly mob, gathered around him. There must be hundreds of people pushing in to hear his words, most of the audience is poor and hungry. The place is packed with the sick, the dispossessed, the widow, the orphan, all the ones without a voice and without hope.

We, the comfortable, watch as Jesus stands before them, offering words of blessing…

upon the poor in spirit,

for those who are mourning,

for those who are meek,

for those who are merciful despite their hardships,

those who pure in spirit,

and upon those who seek peace rather than war

Jesus is challenging these struggling ones, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who mistreat you… If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. If someone forces you to carry their pack one mile, carry it two. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” Then Jesus finished addressing this group, saying, “Do to others as you would have them do to you. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

When Jesus finished challenging this group, he turned his attention to us! He came over and spoke right into our faces, “Do not be mistaken, these words were not spoken for you.” Then Jesus raised his voice, “I am sending you an infinitely more difficult message.”

A time is coming

when those you now treat as enemies and slaves will show you nothing but love in return,

when those who you curse with indifference will offer you a blessing.

When you slap these people on the right cheek, be prepared, for they will turn their left cheek toward you.

When you steal their cloak, they will offer you their tunic.

And when you demand that they carry your pack for one mile, they will gladly carry your possessions two miles.

They will give freely what you demand from them, and they will not seek to gain back what you have stolen from them.

They will treat you as they would long to be treated.

You will judge them, but they will not judge you.

You will condemn them, but they will not condemn you.”

Jesus made it clear, “These people are my message to you. Heed this message and you will live. Ignore this message, and you will perish.

Commentary

The message of the parable has different meanings, depending upon which group shapes  your identity.

What the “despised outcast community” hears from Jesus:

This is a way of life that will give you dignity, even when people above you beat you down. The arrogant ones above you will see radical, generous grace arise from the bottom. And when they see your love, they will be faced with a crisis. To return your love. Or, to continue to take advantage of you.

What the “people who have it all” community hears from Jesus:

Your comfort comes at the cost of another person’s discomfort.

Your wealth comes from the hard work of those below you.

Your cheap goods come from those who have been paid unjust wages.

Your lifestyle means suffering for others.

Will you repent? Will you live simply so that others may simply live?

Which community do you call your home? Your community determines what message Jesus has for you.

Are you one of the despised ones? Or, are you one of the comfortable ones?

Listen to the message that is for you, not for the other group!

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