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It's Complicated


It's Complicated

Eric Muhr

by: Eric Muhr

There are times when I’m struck by what I read in scripture, challenged to stop for a moment and think about where I’m going, about whether my life is consistent with what I claim to believe. Take this passage, for instance, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person.”

I’ve taken a different path, standing up for my rights, demanding justice when I know I’ve been wronged. And Christian culture applauds. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because turning the other cheek, walking an extra mile or sacrificing the shirt off my back is an unrealistic moral demand. These things only make the problem worse. After all, such actions reward evildoers. We must destroy those who are evil before they destroy us. And what about our neighbors? Even if we can’t defend ourselves, shouldn’t we stand up for the weak and powerless?

Peter answered this question with the slice of an ear. Jesus rebuked him and healed the wound. What about the woman caught in adultery? Jesus invited the crowd to throw rocks.

I don’t like where Jesus is going with this. I argue. Look for loopholes. Identify semantic issues. “Thou shalt not kill” probably means “Thou shalt not murder.” Everyone knows that military intervention is different from the actions of a serial killer.

For one thing, it’s more efficient.

“Good point, Jesus,” I say, throwing up my hands. I know he’s right. But I go on with my life, and I probably won’t change. It’s too complicated to reconcile Jesus’ teaching with my real-world experience. Someone else can figure it out.

Except I know this work is work I have to do. I just don’t know how.