This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
To the world’s hundreds of millions of Christians, Jesus of Nazareth was far more than – like Buddha or Socrates – one of history’s great teachers of ethics. But what a teacher he was.
Christmas – with its odd jumble of colored lights, nativity scenes, Santa Claus, ancient pagan customs and frantic commercialism – pays vague homage to Jesus’ arrival 2,000-odd years ago. Real appreciation requires dusting off the second-hand pieties and looking precisely at his recorded statements.
Consider the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew, a discourse so radical it remains startling today.
In a Roman world obsessed with dominance, wealth and military power, Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . those who mourn . . . the meek . . . those who hunger and thirst after righteousness . . . the merciful . . . the pure in heart . . . the peacemakers.”
Against the deep-rooted human instinct for vengeance, he taught, “Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Nor was it just a matter of not hitting back. “Love your enemies,” he said, “and pray for those who persecute you.” Those words have been hanging in the air a very long time, and the idea of loving enemies has yet to catch on.
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