I had an unusual experience on Facebook recently: a civil conversation with someone who disagreed with me about a controversial situation.
This doesn’t happen often so it is certainly worth nothing. However, that does not mean the comments made by others in the midst of our discussion were civil.
The conversation began with the story of the recent killing by ISIS terrorists of a Jordanian pilot. ISIS attempted to negotiate with Jordan, offering to release the pilot if Jordan would release a couple of their captured comrades.
As with most countries, Jordan was unwilling to negotiate with terrorists. Instead, they replied with promises to kill their prisoners if the terrorists went through with their threats.
The Facebook conversation began with several folks praising this approach to terrorism, suggesting that fighting fire with fire is the best, most effective approach.
It was clear that many felt like the only appropriate response to violence is greater violence.
I joined the conversation and suggested that it might be time to consider a different approach, especially since this was not working.
Specifically, I suggested we might consider Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek. The terrorists had already killed the pilot by the time I piped in.
Perhaps more astonishing than the civil conversation I had on this subject was the preponderance of hateful, violent suggestions made by others.
I was somewhat appalled by the casual ease of some Christians who suggest killing is the best solution.
Here is what we do know: Terrorists hijacked planes and killed more than 3,000 Americans in 2001. We responded with a 14-year war, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Yet, we have to sleep with one eye open because Islamic terrorists still want to kill us.
We have people, even followers of Jesus, still loudly proclaiming that we need to kill even more of them. Where does it end?
How many do we need to kill before they cower in fear of us? How many more do we need to kill before we can feel comfortable again? How much more violence must there be before we are willing to say this is not working?
I would like to think that followers of Jesus would be the first to speak up, but my Facebook experience this past week did little to provide hope of that happening.
I guess my real question is how did Christians get to be so violent? How can we be so casual in our turn toward violence (or greater violence) as the solution to this problem?
I am not suggesting that nations do not need to defend themselves, and I certainly agree with the idea that Jesus was probably not speaking of national defense when he spoke of turning the other cheek.
But it does seem apparent that killing someone we have captured is not going to prevent one of ours from being killed.
I’m not qualified to be a politician or a military tactician. All I know is that what we are doing is not working, so I’m not really hopeful that doing more of it will be beneficial.
What would happen if we resisted evil by turning the other cheek? Jesus did not promise that the evildoer would walk away in shame, nor did he promise God would miraculously intervene.
The fact that Jesus did not promise immediate deliverance to the one who turns the other cheek is probably why we have such a hard time doing it. We are always looking out for number one.
Turning the other cheek might be the clearest path to humility. To turn the other cheek strips us of all pride and self-reliance and places us completely at the disposal of others.
Lest you think this is not important, study all the times when Jesus spoke of the importance of humility and submitting to one another.
It is the exact example he provided when he willingly submitted to the beating by Roman soldiers and ultimately hanging on the cross.
Turning the other cheek took him straight to the grave, and we are afraid it will do the same thing for us.
It causes me to wonder how the world might be different if all followers of Jesus approached life with this type of humility. Would there be any reason for others to hate us?
All I am saying is that it is worth a try. It might be too late to stop the terrorists, but I suspect it is the only way to stop them.
When someone hates you, you can hate them back, which leads to more hate. Or you can love them, which might make a huge difference.
Terry Austin is one of the pastors at Bread Fellowship Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He is also the principal partner of Austin Brothers Publishing. A longer version of this article first appeared on his blog, Intermission, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @wterrya.