I’m conflicted over a recent event. A few days ago a pastor shot a robber who had broken into the church and collected some laptops. What happened is a little sketchy at this time. The pastor was sleeping in the church when he heard a noise. He grabbed his .45 pistol and investigated. After seeing the robber he ordered him to stop, the robber made a move of some kind, the pastor fired and hit the robber in the shoulder. Not only did the pastor stop the robber but he also led the wounded robber in the sinner’s prayer while they waited for the police. (Click here for the local news report on the incident: http://abc13.com/news/police-pastor-shoots-intruder-at-baytown-church/888280/). While I understand the pull to protect following the church shooting in Charleston I’m conflicted about the pastor’s actions. Assuming that he was aiming at the man’s shoulder, what if he had missed and killed him instead? It feels good when evil is resisted and stopped in its tracks. Many of the comments to the story on various news outlets are along the lines of “way to go!” But I really have to wonder if the pastor’s actions were shaped by the cross or by something else.
The fifth impossible possibility that Jesus proclaimed concerns our response to being dishonored, threatened, abused, and used. ““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 an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38–42, NASB95) Most of us have sat through sermons about this text. How eye for eye justice outlined in the Law of Moses limited vendetta and provided a balanced response. How the slap Jesus portrayed is like an insult. That a Roman soldier could force anyone to carry their luggage for one mile but no further. In all of these Jesus sets a new standard, no longer is the standard balanced on a human scale but on the seemingly impossible fulcrum of self-sacrifice.
The more that propels us over the high bar set by Jesus is joy. Recall these words from the writer of Hebrews, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Hebrews 12:2b, NASB95) Jesus endured way more than a dishonorable slap on the cheek. He was beaten, scourged, and mocked for political expediency and correctness. He was stripped of all and shamefully displayed. He was forced to carry the instrument of his death until, weakened by the beatings, He couldn’t go further and another was forced to carry it the rest of the way. He gave up all that was His by right, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6–8, NASB95) We know the why, Jesus did all of this for you and me. Love provided the why, joy provided the how. The joy of the Lord was His strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Jesus calls all those who follow Him to pick up the cross, to lead a cross-shaped life. Not out of compulsion, but out of love and joy.
Joy changes the slap from insult to opportunity. Joy would rather give even when wrongfully accused. Joy finds ways to go beyond the expectations of others to display love. Joy sees the needs of others as openings instead of in judgment. Joy embraces the possible even in the midst of darkness and trials.
I can’t judge the pastor that shot the robber, he’s accountable to God and not me. I can, however, try to imagine myself in the same situation and consider what I would have done. I can’t see myself shooting at a person to stop a robbery. Although I can imagine needing to take some kind of action if someone else’s life or health was threatened. I’d much rather shoot prayers at someone who has wronged me than shoot at them with bitterness, bullets, or lawsuits. “But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress.” (Psalm 59:16, NASB95)