A Heavenly Peace…and Justice
Jesus gives us many difficult examples in the Gospel today. “Turn the other cheek” best sums up all of them. He tells us when someone wrongs you, don’t try to get even. Not only are we not supposed to get even, but we’re actually supposed to give even more than the person has already unjustly taken. This is a hard teaching indeed. However, I think we tend to focus too much on the “what” of this teaching and miss the “why.” Jesus says that if we do these things, “Your reward will be great in heaven.” All of these difficult things Jesus asks are ultimately to remind us that we should live with our eyes fixed on the life to come.
Because we believe in life after death and that there is a heaven, we don’t have to “get even” in this life. We all long for a justice that ensures that everyone gets what’s coming to them. The difference for Christians is that we don’t have to get it here and now. If this world were all that existed then Jesus’ sayings make no sense. If there is not heaven then when someone wrongs you in this life then you’ve got to get back right here and now because that’s all there is.
Christianity and a “Christian world view” can be a great source of peace in the world. If everyone has to get even right here and now then we are doomed to endless war and violence. “An eye for an eye just makes the whole world blind.” Yet, if we as Christians are able to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile with our eyes fixed on a reward that comes later then we have a chance for peace. We still have to work for justice, but we as Christians work for justice in this world knowing that the true and lasting peace and justice we long for will only be experienced in the life to come.