As we’ve been looking at the radical life of Jesus, it’s in Matthew 5.38-48 where we particularly find Jesus turns around the norm of His day and generation.
In Exodus 21.24, the Israelite law says, ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a life for a life.’ And I feel that to some extent Israel still protects itself by maintaining this attitude. But Jesus says in Matt 5, no longer ‘an eye for an eye’ attitude, on the contrary, if someone slaps your cheek, rather than retaliate, offer them the other one! This was and is extraordinary thinking!
But it is so important when we are assaulted, insulted, rejected or criticised not to retaliate, seek revenge or vindication. Matthew 5.11 says, ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me, rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven.’
One of the hardest but most useful lessons we can learn in our lives, is to turn the other cheek. To me it’s a physical reaction that corresponds with Proverbs 15 .1.‘A soft answer turns away wrath. But a harsh word stirs up anger’. It diffuses difficult situations; it prevents quarrels, animosity, division and even wars. It promotes unity, may cause the aggressor to rethink their actions and I dare to say, our Christ like behaviour glorifies God. ‘Tit for tat’ doesn’t work, especially in the Kingdom of God.
When we are negatively treated the desire to take revenge or seek vindication can be overwhelming but Romans 12.19 reassures us that if we leave it to God, He will be our vindication, He will repay when we are wrongly accused.
How often in my life I have had to tell myself,’ be a big girl Marion and leave it to Jesus,’
And I have always been so glad that I did. Psalm 23.5. says,’ You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.’ This speaks to me of vindication before my enemies and blessing and affirmation from our God.
The hard truth is, in all our lives, especially if we are in leadership, there will be insults, accusations, rejection, criticism, jealousy, wilful misunderstanding and downright rudeness.
One of the wisest and most important lessons we can learn in life, whether we are the President of a great nation, the leader of a church, a young stay-at-home Mum trying to raise our children for God, or a student in college, is to ‘turn the other cheek.’ To let it go, to draw a line under it, to be the bigger and more mature person and leave it to God.
Matthew 5.9. says ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.’ And never forget, that is what we are.