Christian ethics isn’t about becoming a “real” man – it’s about getting yourself killed

I have recently revisited St Boniface, about whom I’ve written before, as a potential model for church leadership today — leading the disciplined monastic life and making disciples. And as I write my new Thing About Boniface, I see lovely words spilling forth from my fingertips about how the disciplined life, combined with articulate presentations of the Gospel, may make disciples.

Or …

It may get us killed.

Like St Boniface.

This is an important aspect of the Christian walk we do not consider much in our society. In Wild at Heart, Eldredge has a passage where he talks about how he told his son in grade one to get up and punch a bully back. And then he explained that our usual way of reading “turn the other cheek” ends up making passive men who run away.

He may be right, but his response is possibly wrong, too.

I think the scary, daring part of this teaching from Our Lord is that it’s an act of defiance. You stand back up and say, “Hit me again.” Non-violence is not about running away. It is not about being passive. It’s about literally turning the other cheek, saying to the perpetrator, “What about this cheek?”

These are big words on my part. I avoid conflict of most kinds. Nonetheless, I wonder what would happen if more of us truly took non-violence to heart and resisted evil by suffering.

Maybe we’d make more disciples.

Maybe we’d get killed.

But what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?


4 thoughts on “Christian ethics isn’t about becoming a “real” man – it’s about getting yourself killed

  1. “An act of defiance” – that’s such a good way to express Jesus’ teaching. Acknowledging that these things are easy to write but hard to do – that keeps it real. Thank you.
    I’m working on getting a blog going but it’s taking longer than I thought.

  2. I read an explanation of Jesus’ teaching there that made it really clear.

    “Turn the other cheek” is inviting the person to hit you with their other hand, which culturally was a really bad look, so if they did they would be shaming themselves far more than you.

    “Carry the burden two miles” is about the Roman soldiers being allowed to have civilians carry their things, but only for one mile. So if you refuse to return the things and insist on carrying the burden longer, you are (again) shaming them without being obviously nasty.

    It’s all related to heaping coals on your enemy’s head by being nice to them when they’re being jerks to you. It’s not fun, it doesn’t feel nice, but it’s also not fun for your enemy and they feel bad.

    On top of that, there is a ridiculous amount of satisfaction you feel when you prove yourself to be the bigger person by stoically accepting whatever abuse people are trying to lay on you, particularly if you make it clear that what they are doing to you doesn’t affect you.

    Bringing this back to current culture, turning the other cheek is about interpersonal altercations. Physically, this means not fighting back; in the case of an online or strictly verbal argument, it means keeping the discussion civil and refusing to make things personal, just sticking to the topic and refusing to take any bait.

    The whole burden thing is specifically about authority. The idea is to know what the limits of the law are and then take it to an extreme. I’m not sure what I can relate it to nowadays, but it’s about resisting unjust laws and rules by going further than necessary. Maybe instead of teachers going on strike, they stay at the schools twice as long as they need to and log their time. I do think that “work to rule” measures (where people work but only do exactly what their job descriptions state and don’t work overtime or anything) are related to this, though.

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