The Third Way
Wayne sent me this blog post from Richard Rohr in response to a recent post on my blog. Rohr references Walter Wink and his book, but I also thought of Martin Luther King’s Stride Toward Freedom, where he outlines three responses to oppression.
King says oppressed people deal with the oppression by either acquiescing, resorting to physical violence and corroding hatred, or nonviolent resistance. King shows that the third way is the only way for Christians.
The second way is obviously wrong for us as followers of Christ. Jesus has told us to not return evil for evil. We are to love our enemies and pray for them. So we cannot descend into violence and hatred. As Wink says: “Commitment to justice, liberation, or the overthrow of oppression is not enough, for all too often the means used have brought in their wake new injustices and oppressions. Love of enemies is the recognition that the enemy, too, is a child of God.”
The first way is also wrong. If we cooperate with evil and oppression by acquiescing, we tacitly approve of the sin the oppressor is committing. We fail to “be our brother’s keeper” by allowing the perpetrator’s conscience to remain undisturbed. This passive cooperation is also unacceptable because it allows the mistreatment of everyone else around us and after us. We have to protest the unjust treatment for the sake of others and our descendants.
So the third way is what Jesus calls us to. And it’s the hard way. We can’t simply retaliate in reactive anger. But we also can’t keep quiet and try to protect our own hide. The harder thing is to accept the violence or mistreatment, but all the while standing up for right.
The “third way” often involves much sacrifice on our part. It’s not the instinctive thing. It’s not the safe thing. It requires thought, deliberation, conscious choice – a decision to put right and love before comfort, safety, or instinctive vengeance. To repeat the verse from last week’s post, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8