Turn the Other Cheek
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
As Christians we are supposed to love everyone, including our enemies. And some Christians are good at that. We do so well at being patient with our enemies and the people who don’t love us while at the same time neglecting to exercise patience for the people who DO love us. I want to spend a little time writing about those people who we may sometimes become impatient with for a variety of reasons:
Remember the old saying that says, “familiarity breeds contempt?” There is no one in our lives more familiar with us than our spouses. We fall in love, get married and before long we learn about every flaw and imperfection. As we grow together we develop histories of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Without patience, without the ability to endure harsh words and offensive behavior calmly and without complaint, the relationships spiral downward as the couple drifts further apart.
Our need for biblical patience is just as real in our marriages as it is in politics or any other social setting. We do not get a free pass from love with our spouses. If anything, we must work even harder to insure that we remain just as loving as we grow more familiar (and thus more contemptuous) in our marriages. Patience is the act of absorbing all of that abuse in a way that prevents it from becoming cyclic and feeding off of itself.
The same thing applies to our families beyond just our spouses. There is so much family drama that could be completely avoided if we would just exercise patience.
Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about this personally (sarcasm alert!). But it seems to me that the better way to live life with family members is to stop the emotional cyclones and prevent misunderstandings from taking hold of our relationships with family members. With only slightly less permanency, our relationships with our family members are long term relationships, or at least they should be. Misunderstandings can last a lifetime and the chasm that separates brother from brother and mother from daughter (etc.) never just heals itself.
The problem with family drama is that, over time, while each individual member of the family stews over the supposed lies, insults and abuses, his memory of what really ever happened begins to change. It’s important to understand that our memories are not fixed. The way we remember things actually changes with time. And for as long as we feed those memories critical and condemning thoughts, those memories will continue to paint an increasingly darker picture of the facts.
When both sides of a family drama allow the chasm to widen, when both sides continue to react to the hurt with actions intended to hurt each other, the relationship has absolutely no chance of fixing itself. It just doesn’t work that way. The old saying that goes, “time heals all wounds” is not true enough to be any good to us in the context of getting along with our own families. Time only heals the wounds caused by the people we don’t have to see anymore. But for those who remain in our lives, time does nothing but widen the chasm.
That’s why it is so very important that at least ONE person in the drama should exercise biblical patience and absorb the abuse, “calmly and without complaint.” By doing so, the cycle is broken and the family can heal. Without it, the family is doomed to fall apart.
Our Church Members and Leadership
I recently heard from a friend of mine that him and his wife were going to look for another church. Apparently, when they made the decision to step up and take an active role as volunteers for their current church, the coordinator was rude to them. So now, instead of becoming more active in the church, they are looking for something more utopian where they won’t be offended.
Why should we love our fellow church members any less than we love our enemies?
You will never find a church where you can be more involved that everyone will make you feel good. I think that’s one of the reasons why the mega churches have become so successful. They are wonderfully anonymous. If you never try to get more involved, no one will ever know about it and you will never have to get your feelings hurt. For some people this is preferable, especially for the newer, younger Christians. But as you grow in Christ, your need to be part of something will grow, too. At that point, the anonymity of the mega churches may work against you in your growth as a Christian.
Being part of a church family is an important part of growing as a Christian. Yes, it is difficult to become more involved with the smaller churches. Yes, your feelings will get hurt. But that’s such a small price to pay for the good that most churches do, not the good they will do for you, but the good you will do, through your church, for those who need it.
To be a contributing member of your church, you must exercise patience with those who get grumpy or who seem to look down their noses at you. When you get to the point in your walk when you feel like its time for you to play your part in the church you consider your spiritual home, then it is no longer about you and your feelings. It’s about what you can do, as two or more meeting in Christ’s name, to make a difference in this world. To do that you absolutely must endure the supposed abuses of your fellow church members (or even the leadership if that’s who has offended you).
A lot of people complain about the music at their churches. To the older, more traditional members, the loud rock and roll music is offensive to them. To the younger members, the hymns are boring and irrelevant to their personal lives. One of the ways we should exercise patience at church is by enduring the offensive or boring music – calmly and without complaint. I understand how difficult that can be. Part of the reason we go to church is to praise God and worship Him, and when we don’t like the music it is a lot more difficult for us to do that. But when we love the people in our church, enduring their music is part of that love.
Sometimes patience for our coworkers can be more difficult to exercise because we often feel trapped and forced to “deal with them.” This is a little different than the life long relationship we have with our spouses and families. Our relationships with our coworkers do not last quite as long as family, but what these relationships lack in the long term, they make up for with daily proximity. The necessity to make an income to support our families is unavoidable and only a selfish fool would quit a job just because someone on that job was making things difficult for him. So the abuse we experience at work can be far more sever in some cases than anything else we are force to endure in our lives.
And yet, we are commanded to endure the abusive treatment calmly and without complaint. The verse from Matthew at that top of this page says, “do not resist an evil person.” Jesus instructed us to repay evil with good, to turn the other cheek and to walk the extra mile.
There are some people getting high profile media coverage (even on Christian media, I’m sorry to say) trying to change the meaning of the “turn the other cheek” verse. They are saying that the true meaning of the verse is that turning the other cheek forces the offender to use the back side of his hand, which according to them was culturally demeaning in Jesus’ day. So they are saying that, by saying “turn the other cheek” Jesus is telling us to force our opponents to publicly demean themselves. The only way you could believe what they say is if you completely ignore all of the verses that come before and after that one. Please don’t be fooled into believing this lie. If you are one of those who already took the bait, please go back and re-read all of Matthew 5. When you put it in context, there is absolutely no way that you could interpret “turn the other cheek” the way these manipulators of the Word would have you believe. This is what’s wrong with “search engine Bible studies.” It is so easy to take things out of context in that way.
Do not forget that you are an ambassador for Christ, probably more so at work than at any other time in your life. The way you behave at work will determine what your coworkers think of Christians. If you allow yourself to be injured by their abuses, and allow that cycle of emotional triggers to stay in tact, causing you to behave in a way that is emotionally motivated and not at all Christian or loving, then you will have failed in your responsibility to share with them the love of our Lord and Savior which is within you. It is His love within you that will save souls and fulfills the great commission.
You Get the Picture
I hope you can see the overall picture I am painting here. Patience is not just enduring the trials inflicted upon us by an obvious enemy. We can dramatize patience by imagining a POW enduring the torture from his enemies calmly and without complaint. That is a grand and noble example of Biblical patience, but the patience we should be exercising each and every day is not so dramatic. The patience we exercise every day should include the endurance of trials from even (or especially) those who are closest to us.
Putting the patience into action is something that takes a lot of trial and error. Believe me, I say this from experience. Studying patience the way I have been has changed my life but it has not been an instant change. In fact, I still have emotional triggers that get sprung every now and again. I am working on them and getting better each day at not letting them control my behavior. But it takes effort.