Sunday, August 28, 2016

 

Sunday Reflection: The value of gentle souls

Christians often do remarkable gymnastics to get around the entirely plain message Christ delivers in the sermon on the mount:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[h] let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

What is happening here? Christ is expressly rejecting an ethic of retribution (an eye for an eye) in favor of endless charity, selflessness, and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is harder than retribution. Retribution makes us feel good, like so many other things that Christ proscribes.  Forgiveness, the true and deep kind that involves sacrifice and humility, does not offer that kind of instant gratification, and it often comes with public censure for being "naive" or "soft."

It's hard to follow Christ, since that path so often leads away from our desires and society's values. I struggle with it, and often fail. When someone hurts me (and they do), I am tempted to hurt them back, and sometimes I do. That isn't living out my faith; it is failing.

Gentle souls, those who live out this difficult faith, are undervalued in our society. We are part of a culture that celebrates victory and "greatness." We see sports, especially those that value winning a game over a vanquished opponent, as essential to building character. Gentleness doesn't win a trophy, and rarely appears on the pages of the paper.

Maybe we need new trophies, and better papers.

Comments:
Ah, gentleness. Couldn't agree more that it is undervalued, yet I am drawn to those with gentle souls as I am acutely self-aware it is something I lack. It seems this fits under the umbrella of the things we try to teach young children (sharing, kindness, etc) yet don't recognize as having real world value. The opposite, in fact.
 
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