So, I got an email a couple of days ago indicating that TW left a comment on the Zarqawi / Goldstein post that I put up last Saturday. TW is a fellow-participant of mine on several message boards from a couple of years ago (message boards seem to be in decline these days, which is a pity in several ways). He's left the occasional comment here, although it had been a while ... hey, TW, how's it going with you? Glad you stopped by. Whatcha been up to? Posting anywhere?
I post this because TW's comment is lengthy, and probably no one will see it 'way down there, what with me being the only one who gets a heads-up email from Blogger about comments here and all. As has been typical over the years, his comment is in substantial disagreement with me, and I point it out here in the interest of some kind of rudimentary fairness, at least. I advise you to go and read it, and my advice is well-known to be worth every cent you pay for it. I also want to respond to some of it:
I have a hard time with some aspects of Christianity. If Matthew 5:38-48 in total context means to let your enemies saw your head off and/or the heads of your progeny and then go ahead and love them anyway....well, like I said.Rather than talk about the meaning and "total context" of the turn-the-other-cheek passage from the Sermon on the Mount, I'd like to go somewhere else in Matthew: to chapter 19, verses 16 to 26.
And behold, one came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not commit murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to Him, "All these things have I kept; what am I still lacking?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.When TW says he has a hard time with some aspects of Christianity, I agree with him completely. Like anything that is both real and complex (I think I'm being redundant there), Christianity contains elements that are, at first, strange and disagreeable and alien. If I really believe that I am weak and sinful and mortal, then it shouldn't surprise me when God's thoughts are not my thoughts, and His ways are not mine, and it shouldn't surprise me when He doesn't affirm my natural inclinations as being good. Christianity is a matter of submission and surrender, and for every person, there's one thing that seems too precious to set aside or give up. For the rich man in the passage above, it was his wealth, and that was what Jesus demanded of him. It's not riches for everyone; for some, it may be revenge. It may be the imperative need to rejoice over the death of our enemy.
And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "then who can be saved?" And looking upon them Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Whether I could forgive someone who had slaughtered my child, I cannot say. I've never been in that position, and I earnestly hope I never will be. But even if I'm convinced that I could never say what Michael Berg said, I still rejoice that he has been able to do so. "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." This is often quoted as one of those icky-sweet "promises of God," but I think it can sometimes actually feel threatening. Not only do I think I cannot set aside my thirst for revenge -- truth to tell, I don't really want to, either. God's saying that He can make me able to do that isn't good news, when I don't particularly want to. Matthew 7:14 quotes Jesus as saying, "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it." Like the rich young man, we all have something that seems too important to surrender, and most of us seemingly never do manage to relax our grip, open our hand, and let it go.