We’re called to turn the other cheek,but not to turn a blind eye to injustice.

As a child in private school, I was subjected to a crash course in
what they called “Creative Conflict.” The Creative Conflict 
program was designed to prevent the sort of violence that we find
in the Bible, and help children to work out their differences in a
productive manner. In reality, this meant that I, the class nerd, was
forbidden to defend myself in the event of a beat-down from one of
the class bullies since, according to Creative Conflict, hitting back
is never the answer.

The one thing that I remember the most clearly—aside from being
punched in the head—was the video component of the training, which featured several children that acted out a number of conflict oriented role-playing scenarios in a playground. Every scenario ended with the same mantra, repeated over and over again:

“We’ve got to take responsibility for our actions—just like Dr.
King did.”

In retrospect, I’m wondering what they meant by that. Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. was indeed a great mean that challenged the
powers that be, that spoke out against racism and waged a
nonviolent war on economic injustice. And he did indeed take
responsibility for his bold actions. But for Dr. King, taking
responsibility meant taking a bullet in the neck. Actually, it sounds
a lot like the passive martyrdom that the Creative Conflict program
was promoting in the schoolyard.

Turn the other cheek. Don’t hit back. Take responsibility for your
actions, just like Dr. King did in 1968. Just like Jesus did, when He
was nailed to a cross.

***

God help us, that puts our backs to the wall. But personally, I take
some issue with the Creative Conflict agenda. Because in a
metaphorical sense, I think that we can hit back. I think that we
should hit back. That’s what fighting injustice is all about.

It’s why Jesus got Himself arrested for disturbing the peace.

But waging a war against what we perceive to be unjust is never as
simple as it sounds. For when we stare long into the abyss, the
abyss stares back into us. When battling monsters, we risk
becoming monsters. And when fighting against hatred, we too
begin to hate. And our souls wither away, poisoned.

I encourage everyone to take a stand for what you
believe in, and against what you think is wrong. But first, a word
of caution: remember that your so-called “enemies” are people too;
beautiful, frail, flawed human beings just like you, no matter how
inhuman they may seem.

Jesus didn’t hate the people who crucified Him.  To respond with
hatred to those that provoke our anger is to wage a battle without
honor or humanity. It isn’t right.

But again: just because we can’t respond with hatred doesn’t mean
that we can’t respond at all. We’re called to turn the other cheek,
but not to turn a blind eye to injustice. Jesus and King taught us
that much. We aren’t here just to exist; we’re here to find a way to
co-exist. That means that we can’t go around hating people, but it
also means that we can’t just ignore them when they do something wrong. They need to be held accountable for their hatred and
warmongering.

The difficulty lies in fighting hatred without sinking into its depths.
It lies in standing up to oppression without becoming oppressors.
In the words of the Creative Conflict seminar, it lies in attacking
the problem instead of the person who caused it.

We can’t do this alone.

Only by the grace of God can we even hope to walk the tightrope
between good and evil. 

What I’m talking about here is peace. I don’t have all the answers.
But we can’t just stand by and watch while it withers away to its
roots.

Amen.

Rev. Seth Ethan Carey

(Excerpt from And the Fig Tree Withered, Aug. 2017)

4 Comment(s)
  • Bob Stout Posted October 3, 2017 6:12 pm

    I can’t think you enough for reaching out to us as our pastor, offering the clarity of thoughtful reflection that has helped me for one, to sort through the chaos of this most horrible event. Your observation about the distance between the shooter and the target graphically and accurately assessed the nature of the shooting as being far less mpersonal than other mass shootings. His victims must have appeared as ants or perhaps even less than ants, just shooting targets.. I fear for the future and “copy-cat” efforts. And yes, we do need to come closer and recapture a sense of empathy and compassion, two qualities that have been eroded away by the force of the waves of social media, distant and impersonal/instant one-way communication with significant delay in response if not even no response at all. SAD!

  • Diane Adams Posted October 4, 2017 6:16 am

    Pastor Seth,

    Thank you so much for your words of comfort at this sad, frightening time. Your words, both spoken and written, have touched me many times in the past. I, too, am thankful for my church family, where we can be uplifted and comforted.

    Blessings.

  • Siobhan Wagner Posted October 4, 2017 11:59 am

    Pastor Seth ~

    This is such a sad time in all of our lives. There are people out there that hugged and kissed a loved one for the last time on Sunday evening, not knowing it was the last time. We should love everyone like it’s our last day here on earth. Unfortunately we don’t do that on a daily basis. We get too caught up in life until someone evil shows their “face” to the world and we again hug and kiss our loved ones. I have always wondered is there evil in the world or is it mental illness?

    How do we know if someone is truly evil or mentally ill. This is one of the things that scares me the most. Everyone automatically thinks, Oh, he was mentally ill, but was he? This is the one thing that I question in life, is evil among us. It truly scares me to think there is evil but we see it in the news everyday not just Sunday evening.

    Like you said, it’s like a window to hell opened and it is staying open……but why? Are we being tested by one side and pushed by the other?

  • Leland Livingston Posted January 27, 2018 8:49 am

    I like that view of the glass–thank you.

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