Posted on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
Donald Miller’s post yesterday entitled, “Learning to Turn the Other Cheek (Even Though I HATE Critics)” got me thinking, “How would I respond to attacks?” I assumed I would respond defensively and with self-pity.
“Blessed are the peacemakers…Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.“1
Last night as I read Philip Yancey’s book The Jesus I Never Knew about those verses this account challenged my thinking.
“This truth came to me in a roundabout way. The great novelist Leo Tolstoy tried to follow it, but his irascible temper kept getting in the way of peacemaking. Tolstoy did write eloquently about the Sermon on the Mount, however, and half a century later a Hindu ascetic named Mohandas Gandhi read The Kingdom of God Is Within You by Tolstoy and decided to live by the literal principles of the Sermon on the Mount.”
“The movie Gandhi contains a fine scene in which Gandhi tries to explain his philosophy to the Presbyterian missionary Charlie Andrews. Walking together in a South African city, the two suddenly find their way blocked by young thugs. The Reverend Andrews takes one look at the menacing gangsters and decides to run for it. Gandhi stops him. “Doesn’t the New Testament say if an enemy strikes you on the right cheek you should offer him the left?” Andrews mumbles that he thought the phrase was used metaphorically. “I’m not so sure,” Gandhi replies. “I suspect he meant you must show courage—be willing to take a blow, several blows, to show you will not strike back nor will you be turned aside. And when you do that it calls on something in human nature, something that makes his hatred decrease and his respect increase. I think Christ grasped that and I have seen it work.”
Martin Luther King Jr
“Years later an American minister, Martin Luther King Jr., studied Gandhi’s tactics and decided to put them into practice in the United States. Many blacks abandoned King over the issue of nonviolence and drifted toward “black power” rhetoric. After you’ve been hit on the head with a policeman’s nightstick for the dozenth time and received yet another jolt from a jailer’s cattle prod, you begin to question the effectiveness of nonviolence. But King himself never wavered.
As riots broke out in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Harlem, King traveled from city to city trying to cool tempers, forcefully reminding demonstrators that moral change is not accomplished through immoral means. He had learned that principle from the Sermon on the Mount and from Gandhi, and almost all his speeches reiterated the message. “Christianity,” he said, “has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear. To be a Christian one must take up his cross, with all its difficulties and agonizing and tension-packed content, and carry it until that very cross leaves its mark upon us and redeems us to that more excellent way which comes only through suffering.
Martin Luther King Jr. had some weaknesses, but one thing he got right. Against all odds, against all instincts of self-preservation, he stayed true to the principle of peacemaking. He did not strike back. Where others called for revenge, he called for love…”
1 – Matthew 5:9-10, NIV