Too Mutch

...a safe place to dance with ideas, play with theology, and re-create a life implicated by God

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

who are you looking at?


In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." These words have come alive to me in a new way over the last few days as I've been reading about forgiveness in a book called The Faces of Forgiveness: Searching for Wholeness and Salvation by Shults and Sandage. Generally, a person who is struck on the cheek will respond in one of two ways. The first is retaliation. "Tit for Tit" as Dwight Schrute from The Office would say. The second way someone may respond is humiliation or defeat. When they are slapped, their head whips around, their body spins and follows, and they walk away or hide from the one that has struck them. Jesus calls us to a third option that, unfortunate for us weasels, is the most difficult.

He tells us to give them the other cheek. There is plenty that has been said in books and commentaries and from the pulpits about what this means and what this looks like. Here, I'd like to move from Biblical exposition to Biblical reflection and devotion. As I read this book about forgiveness and the role of the face, I realize that what Jesus requires of us in offering the other cheek is that we will have to look our offender square in the eyes because we will be face to face with him/her. Sandage and Shults are making a lot out of the role of the FACE in forgiveness and reconciliation and wholeness. What follows are some of their quotes from the first 100 pages of the book...
  • Dilemmas of forgiveness are embedded in a social process of saving and losing face.
  • We suggest that the face represents a powerful interpersonal "text" that evokes an attempt to interpret the feelings and dispositions of the other (facial hermeneutics).
  • The capacity for forgiveness is formed in response to the FACE of the OTHER.
  • Fear and anxiety are at the core of unforgiveness and relational estrangement.
  • Perhaps faces--both our own faces and the faces of others in our community--actually mediate the process of forgiveness.
  • It is easier to avoid our moral obligations to others or even go through the motions of inauthentic moral acts, if we do not actually encounter the face of the other person.

I could go on and on, but hopefully this gives you a taste of the importance of the face in forgiveness. So what? Why is this getting so much attention from me right now? Well, it is helping me makes sense of some recent events in my own life. A couple of months ago, my church terminated my working position. Then, surprisingly, they asked that Christine and I take a step back (and out) of the community (for an undetermined amount of time). Now, I don't really care to relive all of those events or even make commentary on them...except for this...

By asking us to step away from our community during this time, they have nearly made forgiveness impossible. If we are not allowed to be present, our faces are not seen. And we don't get to see anyone else's face. To some degree, we don't exist in the lives of one another anymore. And so, forgiveness is no longer possible (and maybe it isn't even necessary). You see, there is something about the face--about being face to face--that mediates forgiveness and leaves the door to reconciliation open (or at least unlocked). As messy and uncomfortable and painful as it might be, facing one another is crucial of any kind of forgiveness and wholeness is going to be pursued.

So, I've got a choice. I can purchase and send copies of this book I'm reading to everyone I know at my previous church. But, since I'm unemployed right now, I don't think that would be very wise stewardship of resources. The other option is the one that is more uncomfortable for ME. I have not wanted to go into the church offices and be seen. There are people that I miss and would love to see, but I don't really want to do it there. It makes me frustrated and angry just thinking about it. But, I've got another cheek. While I'd like to hit back and retaliate--or turn and walk them right out of my life...I can't. I've got another cheek.

As soon as I've posted this, I'm gathering my things and I'm heading in for some good 'ole face to face. If you are interested, I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, though, maybe there is a face you need to see...

Sandage writes these words that I leave with you...

Jesus said, "Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me...will find it" (Mark 8:35). It seems there is often a similar paradox to saving face: whoever tries to save face will eventually lose it, but whoever loses faces redemptively can find it.

14 Comments:

At 9:50 PM, Blogger Micah said...

greg,

Erica and I read your blog together and we are proud of you for choosing the narrow road that leads to life.

 
At 1:16 AM, Anonymous kim said...

pg,
my thoughts
my prayers
my rooting for you and christine and his light to continue to shine through you and give you comfort.
run that race.
if you need a brace i have extras : )

 
At 7:44 AM, Blogger Greg said...

micah and erica,

thanks for reading my blog and making comments. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside! And thanks for walking this same road with us.

 
At 7:46 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Hey K-dog,

thanks for the shout out and the encouragement. I hope you heal up fast and that God would grant you the spiritual gift of coordination!

 
At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

greg...so i am posting a comment sort of out of my comfort zone. as i said on the phone last night to you and echo micah and erica...i am proud of you for choosing the other cheek. for stepping out of your comfort zone and facing it. sadden that i didnt get to see you yesterday but you know you are missed by someone in the east wing of the offices. may you my brother continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him. you are ever so loved. shalom...kabookie

 
At 10:21 PM, Anonymous raptor said...

This is great stuff Greg. thanks for your vulnerability. I think to look into someone's eyes is to see the image of God and often to see someone's heart. Jewish folks talk about greeting one another with their eyes. Why is it that when we are looking at someone and they suddenly look at us, we so quickly look away. Is eye contact too vulnerable for us sometimes? I love the post.

 
At 8:17 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Yes, Nate...the eyes are the window to the soul. And if you ask Micah, he might be able to look into your eyes and diagnose some kidney problems or be able to tell you why Kara smacks you down in foosball all the time!

 
At 2:02 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Greg,
I like your vulnerability in integrating the vision of forgiveness presented by Shults and Sandage into your recent life situation. I am challenged by your words to do some necessary "face time" myself.

 
At 7:22 AM, Blogger DawN said...

way to go brother!
I have been through something similiar over the last year and reconciliation and healing only came when I followed Jesus and stood face to face with some people.

Great post- thanks for sharing!

 
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At 5:03 PM, Anonymous personal development said...

Your subconscious mind is a powerful force. It can be an un-defeatable ally or a dangerous foe! It is a powerful force of nature that can be harnessed and made to work for us or it can be a wild beast that runs riot with our lives.
How powerful is 'powerful'?

Take the first Atomic Bomb - it could lay waste to an entire city in seconds. Or the gravitational pull of the Sun which stops our tiny planet from hurtling into space. Imagine the power of a black hole - that region of spacetime from which nothing can escape not even light travelling at 186 thousand miles a second. The Universe is full of powerful forces. Yet, all these wondrous things pale into insignificance when compared to the power of the subconscious mind.

The subconscious part of your mind is that part which regulates your heartbeat, lungs, digestive system and everything else in your body. It directs the inner workings of your body and such things as (what biologists call) 'machines' - tiny living cells that are composed of motors, drive-shafts and propellers - seriously!!! There is mounting evidence that the cells in our bodies have memory and that our very DNA is coded with memories of our ancestors. As well as having full control of all these functions and more your subconscious also retains all the thoughts, experiences and emotions you have ever felt. It regulates the most complicated mechanism in the unknown Universe - your body - and it can calculate the trajectory of multiple moving objects while supplying you with the words necessary to debate an issue while controlling a complex task of activities such as driving a car!
These tasks alone show how powerful the subconscious mind is. But it is much more powerful than that!

The truth is: No-one knows the limits of the subconscious mind's power!

Tell yourself that you will wake up at 6 a.m. and chances are you will awake. Go to a crowed party and through a mass of voices you will hear someone at the other side of the room mention your name! Set a problem aside and miraculously, out of nowhere, the answer comes while you are involved in another task. It recreates situations in your life that correspond to your beliefs. Time and time again you find yourself in the same situations, with similar partners, in almost identical jobs. Like a wheel your subconscious mind creates situations that bring your life back to the same spot.
Likewise it can totally transform your life - even overnight! It can bring you new situations, life experiences, luxuries and even people.

However, it is like a na�ve child or a better analogy is that of a computer. It believes everything that you tell it. Your conscious mind is the gatekeeper. Anything you think with complete faith is immediately past to the subconscious mind - which it then takes as literal fact. There will be no arguments because it has no discriminating capabilities.
Although your subconscious mind is more powerful than you can possibly imagine it is a mere servant. It is at your disposal. YOU are in charge. It acts just like a computer and like every computer it needs software to run. So if you do not program it then someone else will! You are constantly being bombarded with software programs for the mind every minute of everyday. Buy this product and you will look slim, drive this car and you will seem sexy, drink this potion and you will feel more vibrant about life. You are told what to buy and when to buy it, when you are too young to do a thing and when you are too old. You are told what is possible and what is not. Snap out of it!
Take back your control over mind and body. You were born with the most powerful computer system known to man - a bio-computer that regulates a sophisticated, highly flexible, changeable, self repairing vehicle. You are amazing, a true miracle. If you bought a new top of the range diesel Mercedes would you let Joe or Sue down the road fill it up with petrol?
Begin to think for yourself. Who told you that you could not achieve your dreams? Do you believe it? Who told you that you were too fat, too skinny, too stupid, too smart, too young or too old?

Does it matter?

No! Because you are and always have been in total control. Change your thinking and you will change your subconscious beliefs. Change your subconscious beliefs and you will change your life. hypnosis

 
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