Have you heard of third way thinking?
I have been talking about third way thinking for a few years now in my conversations, and I almost never encounter someone else who is familiar with the concept.
First of all, before you chase down the wrong rabbit hole…don’t start Googling the term. You’ll find lots of different political interpretations. I am specifically referring to Jesus’ Third Way. He was the original model of this concept. So, toss his name into your Google search and you might land on some relevant material to this conversation.
Third way thinking is the concept of an alternative reaction to violence. Most of the time violence looks like this:
Country 1: I bomb you.
Country 2: Oh yeah! You wanna see a BOMB, take THIS. (Bigger bomb drops)
Country 1: Oh really…well, now I am going to spend several months or years preparing something even more violent that will hit you where you least expect it
Country 2: Oh no you did not! Now you are REALLY going to pay.
You get the point.
It just keeps violence in cycle.
Most of the time, people think they only have two options when responding to violence (or insult or any form of mistreatment). Pay them back, or do nothing and walk away.
In the Christian circles, a lot of the teaching actually centers around Jesus’ peace approach being the “do nothing and walk away,” but that’s not what he taught.
Jesus led a non-violent revolution. His existence began the demise of the Roman Empire, one of the largest empires in the history of humanity. He broke the system. But how? Folks…it was NOT by killing them with kindness.
Let’s take the example of “turn the other cheek.” We hear that one a lot.
Prior to understanding the social and cultural context of the story, I always thought it meant that when someone harms you it’s better to let them harm you more than to fight back. Nope…that is not what he was saying. At all.
Here’s the scripture for context (Matthew 5:39 KJV)
“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
This scripture is often interpreted to mean that if someone is mean to you, it’s better to keep taking it than to retaliate. Human nature is that if someone slaps you, you slap back. But there is so much more happening beneath the surface of the scriptures when we dig deeper.
What I have since come to learn is that Jesus was talking to his followers in his sermon on the mount. These people were all oppressed by the Roman empire. At that time, a slap on the right cheek would have been from someone with authority over you. You slapped a peer on the left cheek.
Meaning, what Jesus was saying is, if a Roman soldier slaps you on the right cheek, turn your left cheek to him. It’s not violent, but it sends the message of “how about you treat me like an equal.” It bucks the system. We all know that Jesus bucked the system so much that they ended up killing him for it, even though he only used non-violence to spread his message.
This message is absolutely relevant to every single one of us today. When we are faced with a situation where we feel our options are to mirror back someone’s wrong actions or to walk away and do nothing…maybe neither is the right response. Maybe the response is a third option that lets them know we see their behavior but we aren’t playing their game.
Third way thinking friends.