Those at the edge, ironically, always hold the secret for the conversion of every age and culture. They always hold the projected and denied parts of our soul. Only as the People of God receive the stranger and the leper, those who don't play our game, do we discover not only the hidden and hated parts of our own souls, but the Lord Jesus himself. In letting go, we make room for the Other. The Church is always converted when the outcasts are reinvited into the temple.
God speaks the true word of power, but we cannot believe it. We trust in our power, which we think will change the world, but what has it done?
Conservatives tend to mistrust powerlessness, while liberals tend to mistrust power. Jesus puts them both together in an utterly new way that satisfies neither group. We have never had the courage to take the word of the Lord seriously. We are afraid of both gospel power and gospel powerlessness. We've experienced just enough Christianity, someone once said, to forever inoculate ourselves from wanting the real thing.
I am convinced that most of the saints were religious dropouts from societies that were going nowhere. Faith called them to drop out and believe in something else. Jesus' announcement of the reign of God was telling us that culture as we've created it is on a track toward self-destruction and emptiness. All we have to give up is the utterly false understanding that we have of ourselves from civil society. For some reason that liberation seems to be the most difficult thing in the world!
It's important to realize that Jesus' message was being given, at the same time, to those on the top of society and to those on the bottom. To those on the top, he is always saying, "Come down. Give up your power, your righteousness, and your explanations. Jump off the tower." To those on the bottom—all the nobodies—he's always saying, "Come up! You've got faith. Go show yourself to the priests. You've got the power."
There's a gospel to the oppressors and a gospel to the oppressed, reversing both of their self-evaluations.
Shame and honor were, in fact, moral values in the culture Jesus lived in. In other words, retaliation was the rule of Jewish culture. For Jesus to walk into the midst of that and to say, "Do not retaliate" is to subvert the whole honor/shame system. People who heard this would wonder, "How do I find my self-image, my identity?"
And all Jesus does is to point radically to God. Who you are in God is who you are. In that system there are no ups and downs, no dependence upon families and villages for self-esteem, upon wealth or good societal standing.
Jesus puts identity on a solid foundation: life in God and not in passing definitions of honor and shame.
Excerpts from Fr. Richard Rohr Spiral of Violence, Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, and Sermon on the Mount