Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be wary as snakes and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16)
How often do you read about Jesus in the gospels and then look at what calls itself “Christian” in our culture today and wonder where and when the disconnect happened. And even more importantly, does anybody notice it?
Jesus taught non-violence — even what I would call non-self-defense. Turn the other cheek; go the extra mile; if someone steals your shirt, give them your coat also; return good for evil; don’t exact revenge, be happy when you are mocked, persecuted and lied about, because your reward is great in heaven.
Ahem. Who, as Christians today, really believes any of this? Who is preaching it? Who is acting on it? Come on, we’re fighting for our rights, taking self-defense classes, amassing legal defense, packing pistols and telling the world “I’ve had enough and I’m not going to take anymore.” Unfortunately that’s a movie speaking, not Jesus. Jesus would say, Keep taking it because that is the way I do things. I get my will done in the world in an entirely different way than you would. I have different weapons. I use peace and love and kindness and good. An eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth is not what I came to establish. I came to establish mercy and favor that is unearned. I brought something completely foreign to your natural way of doing things. I bring a new kingdom and I have a different set of rules. I follow the law of love. Still want to follow me?
I ask myself and I ask you, was Jesus just kidding when He said all this? I mean, how many different ways are there to say this? Can there be any doubt? Is the Sermon on the Mount some sort of dispensation we don’t have to pay attention to anymore? Is it a puzzle we have to decode? Certainly He doesn’t really mean everything He said there. Really?
Sheep among wolves? Do sheep defend themselves? Are these kung-fu sheep? No. Sheep have a shepherd. It’s the job of the shepherd to protect them from wolves. A shepherd who lets the wolves in is a bad shepherd. We have a good shepherd.
“So what are you saying, John, that we should be wimps for Jesus?” Well I’m not so sure about the choice of words, but it might look like that to some people. If it is, it’s a wimp with a backbone. In fact, it takes great strength to NOT retaliate. It takes great courage and restraint to do what Jesus is asking us to do. I wouldn’t call that wimpy at all. Nor would I call it kung-fu Christian. It’s standing tall and taking it and loving and forgiving those who are dishing it out. Isn’t that what Jesus did? And isn’t that what he asked us to do? What Bible are we reading? The Revised Kick-butt Version?
If Christians are being noticed for anything, it should be for this — how different we are and how differently we react — a contrast from the prevailing meanness of the culture. Jesus called us to be as harmless as doves.
How curious. There were two doves outside my window just a minute ago. Then I looked up and a big black crow twice their size had taken their place. Where did they go? I guess they found another branch and went on doing what doves do. Welcome to the kingdom of God on earth.