Today, I was reminded of the credo to 'turn the other cheek' while watching an episode of The Wire. You see, one of the kids was getting sick of being beaten up, and decided to take some boxing lessons. His instructor, recognizing that his goal was revenge, reminded him gently that even by gaining the ability to defend himself, he was not taking the target off his back. Trouble would just keep coming.
This marvelous story by Shane Claiborne hit home to me after my own experience. How hard it is to walk the violent streets, content to be used by the depraved if they so choose. Shane tells of walking with 11-year-old Cassim in the streets of Philadelphia and facing down a group of young toughs. After they've somehow left them be after a minor beatdown, Cassim asks,
Shane, why am I taking boxing lessons?
Shane responds by noting that using those skills would only have escalated the situation. He goes on,
I asked Cassim if he thought Jesus was happy with how we acted. He thought about it, and then nodded with a smile. I told him that, honestly, I wasn't sure exactly what Jesus would have done if he were in our place … but there are two things I know Jesus would not have done. He would not have fought. And he would not have run. I told him Jesus may have thought of something else, or he may have done something weird to throw them off, as he often seems to do – like drawing in the dirt with his finger (or writing on the road with sidewalk chalk, "you are better than this"), or maybe pulling a coin out of a fish's mouth (or pulling a piece of candy out of a pigeon's mouth). But I think Jesus was happy with how we acted, and that we were good representatives – good witnesses – of Christ to them. Cassim agreed, and then we prayed for them together. And finally, as he was leaving, Cassim reminded me that each of those boys has to go to bed thinking about what they did that day, and so did we.
I'm not sure about those other boys, but Cassim and I both slept well that night...
I wonder, would I have had the toughness not to fight back? I remember well dealing with the anger after losing my wallet. My gut wasn't to turn the other cheek but seek revenge.
Today I was reminded of that when I wanted the youngster in The Wire to fight back and win. Take out the evildoers by force--I wanted revenge for him. It's got me thinking...
I'm not there yet.