By S M Chen, posted Dec 9, 2015

‘When the character of Christ shall be perfectly recreated in His people, then He will come…’   – E. G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69

“… resist not evil.  Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  – Matt. 5:39

 

In May 2014, I wrote an essay entitled “Another Tin,” posted/published in Adventist Today.

A news item spoof sent to me by a sister who lives in Loma Linda precipitated the essay.  I did not initially realize it was a spoof, and wrote the essay in response.

In brief, the spoof involved the incident of a 110-year-old Loma Linda resident, one Edith Greenley, who sent her would be 23-year-old mugger, Ed Sutherland, to the ER for 8 forehead stitches by wielding her grocery bag like a cudgel, fending him off and thwarting his intentions.

I was interested to see the reaction of readers of barelyadventist.com (which posted/published the spoof), as well as denizens of the assisted living facility at which my sister and brother reside.

Not one of the 34 other respondents at barelyadventist.com or any tablemates of my siblings at the assisted living facility supported my position of the advocacy of nonviolence, of turning the other cheek, of loving one’s enemy, of going the extra mile.

Rather, they all applauded the actions of Granny Greenley in defending herself, and felt this sent a (perhaps much needed) message:  don’t mess with senior citizens, particularly those with bags of vegetarian franks at their disposal.

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Art (particularly great art) recapitulates life – and vice-versa.

In Les Miserables, one of the great novels of the 19th (or any) century, Victor Hugo’s most enduringly popular work, the main protagonist, Jean Valjean, is released from prison and hard labor after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his hungry sister’s family.

He goes to the town of Digne, where he is unable to find a place for the night because he is an ex-con. M. Myriel, the saintly bishop, takes him in and treats him with compassion. Valjean repays his host’s kindness by, upon his departure, stealing silverware.

When Valjean is arrested a short time later, he claims the silverware was a gift.  At Myriel’s house, to which the police take Valjean, the bishop affirms that the silverware was indeed a gift.  He knows that if he tells the truth, Valjean will be returned to prison, perhaps for life.  He encourages Valjean to become an honest man.

Would the bishop have been justified in speaking truth to the police?

I suspect most of us would answer in the affirmative (and let that be a lesson for all breakers of the law).

Instead, the bishop acted as I believe Christ would have, and a life – that of Valjean – was changed.  The ripples from that one dropped pebble spread widely, affected many people for good, and made for a great tale.

It doesn’t matter whether Granny Greenley was affluent or in poverty.  Rather than resisting, she might have given Sutherland her bag with a  “Bless you, son; I think you may need it more than I do.”

He might later have thought twice about mugging a senior again, but not because of fear of counterattack.  “Perfect love casteth out fear.”

Christ commended the widow and her two mites, because that was all she had.  And she still gave it.

The widow of Zarephath may well have been in direr straits than the prophet Elijah, who asked her to make him a biscuit/cake, when all she had was barely enough for her and her son before they gave up all hope and died.  Her graciousness and obedience were rewarded.

In example after example in the Gospels, in the ongoing quest to find the proper balance between mercy and justice, I believe Christ, who was inerrant, chose the former.

Are we in any position to do otherwise?