“Refrain from retaliating when one has been attacked or insulted.”
If you have grown-up in church, you probably remember that it is from Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” as recorded in Matthew 5:38-39 (ESV)…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
When first spoken, those words were unbelievable and they are still seemingly impossible today. My prayer is that God would speak through me and to me as I attempt to share what’s on my heart today. The muse for this Thought is from a conversation that started three weeks ago in a group text message with three teenagers in which one of them sent this out of the blue:
“The high road sucks sometimes feels easier to hit someone and get ur point across but I told myself I was gonna become a better person so I’m gonna give it my best shot and see where I end up How do u turn the other cheek so easily
(That is a direct quote for those wondering about the spelling and lack of punctuation hahaha!) We traded texts that day and then picked up the discussion in our weekly Bible Study the following Friday, in which we discussed the truth of what Jesus was saying…That we should not look to take revenge even though it may be justified. Jesus came to the Earth to show us another way to live and if we want to become more like Him and make a difference in people’s life, we must learn to change the way we react, or sometimes, the way we DO NOT REACT to an offense. That is without a doubt a difficult command for me. Everything in my being wants to defend myself and to retaliate when I have been insulted or hurt. It’s human nature that when someone hurts us that our first thought would be, “how do I get even with them?” In the past, if I did not get revenge on the person for the offense, I would at the very least cut that person out of my life. But again if we want to be a difference maker in this world then we need to follow what Jesus said just 4 verses later in Matthew 5:43-45…We need LOVE OUR ENEMIES!
Jesus’ teachings always turned what is natural or the common way of thinking upside down. Think about what we tell our children…“Be kind to everyone” and “treat others the same way you want them to treat you,” aka as the “Golden Rule,” (which if you didn’t know, that was from Jesus, see Luke 6:31.) The world certainly totes the ideal of “tolerance,” (albeit when it’s in the majority’s best interest,) and “inclusivity” (though it may step on other’s beliefs); but what Jesus was saying is much more than platitudes of tolerance or inclusivity, it was revolutionary! It was a complete paradigm shift of thinking and contrary to the “law of the land” which was barbaric and severe to say the least. Someone hurts you; the same would be done in return. In the second half of verse 45, Jesus exposed a reality that many of us do not realize today:
“For He [your Father in heaven] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Many question why? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people? Have you ever questioned God’s justice system? Stupid question right? Well you’re not alone, the prophet Jeremiah did just that in Jeremiah 12:1b:
You can read the conversation between Jeremiah and God here in Jeremiah 12:1-13. They are great questions, ones that I have wrestled with as well…which makes “turning the cheek” all that much more difficult right? After all, no one wants evil people to get ahead right? So why turn the other check? Well the answer comes if you continue to read what Jesus had to say. Too often we read the Bible like we get our news in “30 second soundbites,” or in small chunks, a verse or two here or there. If you stopped at verse 39 and never read verse 45 you will never get the truth that “GOOD” things (the sunrise,) happen to BOTH, “GOOD” and “BAD” people; and “BAD” things happen to BOTH, “GOOD” and “BAD” people. We live in a fallen, broken world in which Sin exists and people have free will to choose what they will do to their fellow-man.
We discussed this during the Bible Study that Friday afternoon because as a 14 year freshmen, the originator of the text was struggling with people disrespecting him and conversely trying to follow what God wants for his life. I am sure everyone reading this can commiserate with him. I know I do as I too have been wrestling with this command of Jesus’. This past week has been especially hard for me as someone lied about me on the project I am working on and even though I had proof that I did nothing wrong, no one stood up to clear my name. What my 14 year old friend did not realize, is that even a 42 year husband, and father of two daughters, it is still hard to “turn the other cheek” when people disrespect you. What I tried to convey though is that if we do, we will become more like Jesus!
As I have been processing what happened I have to admit that I was not as successful in turning the other cheek…although I did not confront my slanderer, I did not handle myself as professionally as I should have to those who could have vindicated my name. I was reminded of Proverbs 29:11 (NIV1984) which says:
“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”
I definitely way a fool and had to apologize for my venting which felt good at the time but ultimately tarnished my witness. SO, I thought the best thing I could do was share how I fell short in checking my anger over the situation to encourage you to turn the other cheek.
If you think about all that Jesus went through for us it should motivate us to follow His example! Mark 14:60-65 recalls how Jesus reacted when He was falsely accused of blasphemy and on trial. Verse 65 breaks my heart:
“Then some of them began to spit at Him, and they blindfolded Him and beat Him with their fists. ‘Prophesy to us,’ they jeered. And the guards slapped Him as they took him away.”
People spat on Jesus, beat Him and then mocked Him. And Jesus just took it so that He could die in our place so that we could have eternal life with Him and God. Gut-wrenching!! After that, Jesus was mocked by the soldiers in Mark 15:16-20 before he was led to be crucified. Complete and utter disrespect for King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and if that were not enough, Mark 15:29-32 (ESV) recounts:
“And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying,
‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’
So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying,
‘He saved others; he cannot save Himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.’
Those who were crucified with Him also reviled Him.”
If Jesus could endure such ridicule and torment, how can I not take someone lying about me and my name not being cleared? I mentioned earlier about not just reading small bits and pieces of the Bible, well when you read all of scripture and allow it to penetrate your heart, God can then help you in times of trouble. I will close with this final thought from Romans 12:17-21 (ESV) which God reminded me of to help me to process my anger:
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,
‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’
To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Vengeance is the Lord’s is what I felt God impress upon me so clearly. It’s easy to take matters in your own hands but what a missed opportunity for God to move in the situation both in you and the offender! Let that last verse permeate your spirit, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Charles Stanley had this life lesson on verse 21…
“When someone wrongs us and we retaliate, we position ourselves on the same level with the person who acted against us. We do not have a right to avenge ourselves – that is God’s duty (Romans 12:19). Instead, our goal is to be like Christ, who as they were crucifying Him sad, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In that way, the Lord is glorified and those who see our example may turn to Him and be saved (see Luke 23:40, 47; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 2:12, 3:15-16).”
If today you consider yourself a Christ-follower, I urge you to heed these words from Romans and choose not to retaliate so that you can shine the light of Christ into this dark world!
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