38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. 40 When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. 41 When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.
When did Jesus ever say anything harder to hear? Perhaps never! So how do we keep ourselves open to others who may hate or want to harm? In an increasingly divisive world, how do we keep from retaliating when we are wronged or continue to offer enduring hope to others who may not seem worthy? As Christians, loving one another – even the most challenging people in our lives – may seem simpler.
In fact, as I write, I turn on the news to hear about another violent incident. Then I hear the derisive nature of the election ads that punctuate the airwaves, meant to further divide each side of the political spectrum. With reaction on my mind, I want to say: Jesus, when you ask me to “turn the other cheek” now, this is something that I just can’t do. But I pause and think of peace and I am reminded of Our Lord’s way. Jesus lived in a troubled world, too.
I think of Jesus’ whole life and then death. Jesus showed compassion, even as the world set its sights on killing him. Rarely did Jesus show anger. Never did he physically fight back, but always did he stand up for others in need. Jesus always tried to understand and to offer what he could. He always offered forgiveness and healing. As I think further, I know that there has to be another way, Jesus’ way.
I don’t think that Jesus’ message means that we don’t protect ourselves and others from harm. But it does mean that, when given the chance, Christians choose peace. When given the chance, we choose not to demonize those on the other side of any and every argument. When given the chance, we choose peace before violence and offer forgiveness before just demanding retribution. In every situation, we push ourselves to listen and to understand more than we push ourselves to be understood. This is Jesus’ way.
by Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
How do you hear this message of turning the other cheek? How can you sow peace and inspire hope in a divisive world?
As I was writing this devotional, I literally heard an advertisement for a group called: “He Gets Us,” which is a community of people trying to get us back to Jesus’ authentic message. They are not political in nature and are non-denominational. You may which to look at their website, https://hegetsus.com/en
Prayer: Loving Jesus, teach me to walk in your way. In all circumstances, let me sow peace and support those in need in your holy name. Amen.