[This is a guest post by my husband, Brad. And believe me, he does argue like a lawyer! And a note: we are on the go for a few days around here, so please understand if I’m not replying to comments. Thanks!]
Michelle and I have very different methods of debate/argument. Hers is fairly normal. Mine — if you’ve seen Star Trek — can be characterized as Vulcan-esque.
Early in our relationship, after Michelle and I had our first argument, she stated that I argued like a lawyer. Having grown up in a family of lawyers, I was flattered by this comment. Marshalling evidence and seeking precedents in support of a well-organized case: what could be a better approach to a conflict?
She had not intended to flatter.
There are times, especially in the cultivation of relationships, when simple, legalistic thinking inhibits transformation. In Matthew Chapter 5, Jesus points out a number of ways in which people fail to meet the spirit of the Commandments, and then he provides a radical way of transforming our understanding of law:
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” (Matthew 5: 38-42)
I can’t think of a more radical, liberating and terrifying part of the bible. Jesus doesn’t abolish the law in these statements. If anything, he gives us more rules (and tough ones, at that) to follow.
What has changed is the nature of the rules. Instead of “thou shalt not,” we get “thou shall.” Instead of being restrained by law, we are invited to be active participants in its redeeming potential, to go beyond it in the changing of lives.
Imagine that a mugger has stolen your watch and threatened you with violence. As he walks away, you say, “Excuse me, I also have forty dollars in my pocket. You seem, for whatever reason, to need it more than I do. It’s just paper, after all, and not as important as relationships.” I’m guessing that gesture would percolate in the mugger’s mind for a while.
One of the great enactors of this principal was Martin Luther King, Jr. In getting arrested for acts of non-violent protest, he essentially said, “You seem to want to imprison my spirit, intellect and opportunities. Here, take my body as well.”
The nation was so shamed by this morally superior approach to law that it passed civil rights legislation. The country transformed the law.
Questions for Reflection:
What opportunities do you currently have to “turn the other cheek”? How could that transform a relationship? Do you think of “law” as a positive word or a negative one?
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