Many people have no idea what it means to live in a state of terror on a daily basis. Those in the war torn nations of the Middle East understand terror. A rape victim understands terror. Soldiers and police officers and those who put themselves in harms way understand terror. To the rest of the populace these experiences have not been part of their thinking process when they created interpretations of scripture detailing how a follower of Christ should live.
Many of our concepts of faith were formed from within a way of life that bears little resemblance to what so many people in the world endure each and every day. We use Bible verses to underscore our version of reality, but forget the circumstances that existed when the verses were actually written. The subtle temptation is to believe that our narrow understanding of life, crafted in the peaceful environment of a local coffee shop on Main Street America, carries with it enough reality to actually be a livable concept in the rest of the world.
The biblical understanding of life and faith was not drawn up in a world that lacked terror. People were brutally killed with regularity and hung on crosses that lined the roadways of the Holy Land. Psychotic despots could end your life on a whim and present your head on a platter as a grotesque party favor. What makes the truth of Jesus so powerful is that He spoke from within a culture where people were routinely terrorized.
This is the same Jesus while being arrested told Peter to put his sword back in its sheath, but said nothing about getting rid of it. This is the same Jesus who violently turned over the tables of the moneychangers. This is the same Jesus who said turn the other cheek. When Jesus spoke about cheek turning He also said if your hand offends you, cut it off and if you look at something you shouldn’t, pluck out your offending eye.
Jesus was using dramatic imagery to ask His followers to get intentional and serious about the issues of their personal life. He wasn’t asking people to cut off their hands, pluck out their eyes or always turn the other cheek. I have noticed in our highly insulated and selective Western church culture there are a lot of people who still have two eyes and two hands while making demands that other people turn their cheeks to terror and brutality.