Moving Our Embassy To Jerusalem
This morning I am contemplating what Jesus meant by telling us to turn the other cheek. Consider his words in Matthew’s gospel.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 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. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I must ask. Is there a limit to this? Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes that there is “a time for war, and a time for peace.” Surely, he did not write that of his own volition and without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But does Jesus here place on us an obligation to be endlessly conciliatory?
So Far As It Depends On You
The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome:
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
I will state the obvious – or what is hopefully obvious. That is, Paul acknowledges that living peaceably with all is not always possible. It does not only depend on us.
One could say here “It takes two to tango.” By that they would mean that it takes two to fight. Yet the same could just as easily be said of peace. Peace requires both parties be committed to peace.
For instance, the nation of Israel can try to live at peace with the hostile Muslims surrounding her. Yet Israel is justified in fighting back against terrorist jihadists who seek to murder her people.
At a certain point, we have a responsibility to rebuke ungodliness, call sinners to repentance, and seek justice for the oppressed. And do not those responsibilities at some point supersede the responsibility to turn cheeks and give cloaks to our enemies?
For instance, America just announced we will be moving our embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. The Islamic world and its many apologists and appeasers around the globe are enraged. Yet if they would break the peace over such a simple gesture of truth and justice as moving our embassy to Israel’s capital, are we the ones responsible? Should we live peaceably with all if it means caving to such as them? Or are they rather the ones responsible for their unreasonable hostility?
Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek if someone slaps us on the one. Yet I only have two cheeks. Jesus tells us to give our cloak also if someone demands our tunic. Yet what should we do when we run out of cloaks and tunics?
So Heavenly Minded
There is an old saying that bears mentioning here. “Do not be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good.” Unfortunately, I think it applies to Christians who oppose America supporting and affirming Israel on the grounds of being peaceable.
A reckless pursuit of peace without attention to justice and truth is not actually heavenly-minded, though many insist and perhaps even mistakenly believe that it is. I have written before on what I term spiritualizing cowardice. I believe this is one of many situations in which it is appropriate to refer back to that piece.
Regarding such men as urge eternal appeasement of aggressors for the sake of avoiding an ugly fight, the prophet Jeremiah spoke the word of the Lord.
“They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.”
Yet there is a better way. As the prophet Micah says:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does Yahweh require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Conscience compels us to do justice. We can, and should, attempt to pursue justice with kindness and mercy in our hearts, and to remain humble as we do. Yet peace on irresponsible terms, such as compromising the security of innocents in the face of murderous threats – this is not justice, nor is it real peace.
Therefore, I believe the gospel compels us to support America moving her embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. And it is only to our shame we have not done it sooner.