Subtitle: Or do you think I’ve lost mine?
Prologue: In these days of heightened American rancor, with the heat of a presidential impeachment trial in the air, when our national temperature is elevated, our national temper raw, when our social fabric is riven by divisions, personal and political, when old friends, with the utterance of one more disagreeable word than tolerable, become new enemies, when I, as much as the next person, am given to the temptation to fall prey to the reigning, raging animus of these days, I have engaged in long conversations with Jesus about his teaching:
“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 evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. If anyone takes your coat, give your cloak as well…Love your enemies…Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5.38-39, 40b, 44a, 48).
Jesus, I’ve thought about all of this again.
And I think I understand that lex talionis, the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law of retribution, isn’t only a basis of civil law, but also a (the?) norm of human conduct. That the Golden Rule notwithstanding, we humans, quite naturally (you know, Jesus, all that “reptilian brain” theorizing about our human instinct for survival, which, yes, I know, may be oversimplified, but, given my observations of other humans and myself, is close enough to what I consider demonstrably true!), are predisposed to treat others as we have been treated, which, at our worst, is, well, the worst.
Okay, I’ve got it!
So, Jesus (not to personalize it too much, but we have been talking personally, very; and, as I’m wont to say, speaking always and only for myself, who, by the way, trusting that, of course, you’ve noticed, I’m very human) what do you…what does God want me to do?
Illustration: The Beatitudes (aka The Sermon on the Mount), James Tissot (1836-1902)