Turning the other cheek

Embarrassing yourself in public can really take you down a notch or two. As someone who does a lot of public speaking, I have had my fair share of mistakes that have left me red-faced with no one to blame but myself. But the feelings are different when someone else embarrasses you in public. Your pride and sense of honour are at stake. The need for revenge or retaliation seems to be an instant reaction. I wonder how many fights and wars have been started because of someone’s wounded pride. We too easily pay lip service to the teachings of Jesus. When everything is going well and we are feeling great, we believe in all of Jesus’ teaching. When we are insulted, ignored, or deceived, our old fleshly nature can reappear.  We look for ways to justify our reaction and response. A slap on the cheek is an act of disrespect in most cultures and it is expected that the victim should defend themselves. But Jesus teaches, “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.’” (Matthew 5:38-39) Our immediate desire is to place qualifications around such words. We start to say, “What Jesus really meant was…” because to not defend ourselves or to accept the insult without remark is far too painful. What is Jesus really saying in a passage like this? Is he asking us to be a doormat? Not likely. But he is telling us to check ourselves and our attitude. He is teaching us that negative reactions and revenge aren’t the best way to solve problems.  In fact, seeking revenge is a surefire way to keep things escalating. Christian love calls for a different response. When we look at some of the conflicts in our world, we wonder why cooler heads can’t seem to prevail. It’s easy to look at situations we aren’t directly involved in and call for peace. But turning the other cheek is difficult. Being a follower of Jesus means that we seek peace in our daily interactions, even when we are insulted and disrespected. That’s hard to do and requires us to be yielded to the control of the Holy Spirit. Start each morning with a prayer that your temper and tongue will be guided by the Spirit and not the flesh. It just might start to change some of your relationships for the better.