How Are We To Treat Our Enemies?
Part 3: Turn The Other Cheek

But I say unto you, Do not resist evil:
but whoever slaps you on your right cheek,
turn to him the other also. And if any
man will sue you at the law, and take
away your shirt, let him have your coat
also. And whoever compels you to go a
mile, go with him two. Matt. 5:39-41

In the first two lessons in this series we looked at how we are supposed to respond to those who mistreat us, and how we are to speak to them and about them. Today we are going to learn the most difficult task of all: turning the other cheek.

In the midst of His teachings about how we are to treat those who wrong us, Jesus tells us that if someone slaps us across the cheek, we are to turn the other cheek to him. I can hear some of you saying, "SAAAAAAY WHAAAAAAT??? Does that mean that we are just supposed to stand there and do nothing when somebody physically or verbally abuses us?" I don't think that is just exactly what Jesus is trying to convey here. Jesus was not saying that we are supposed to just stand there and be a punching bag for someone. Although in His case, physical abuse was involved, I do not believe our Lord is teaching us we should stay in a situation where we are being physically abused in any way. What He is teaching is an attitude: A humble attitude, not of retaliation or revenge, but of allowing a wrong to be done to us, rather than doing wrong in return. Our response must be in keeping with God's Word.

"Be angry but do not sin. Eph. 4:26"

In other words, do not let anger goad us into speaking harsh, unkind words in return, or do evil or unkind things to get even. In this, as in all things, Jesus himself is to be our example. When He was arrested and questioned, one of the officials slapped Him across the face. Jesus did not retaliate in any manner. He simply told them, "If I did something wrong, tell me what it is, but if I did not, then why do you strike me?" Notice, His reply was not a defense, not a justification, not a scathing rebuttal. He didn't make a vengeful attempt to get even, He didn't speaking cutting words or condemn the official for his unjust action. Instead, His reply was meek and humble, and designed to make the official think about his actions.

Our Lord's response should be our own example in handling conficts. Our answers, like His, should glorify God, showing that we are operating under the power of the Holy Spirit, who gives us patience, temperance, and self-control. When we respond in kind, we demonstrate that we are no different than our enemy. Our goal should be the same as our Lord's goal: to open up communication with our adversary.

The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion;
slow to anger, and of great mercy. Psalm 145:8

And thus we must be, also. A spiritual response of patience, temperance, and self-control means we have to forego our natural human desire for revenge, but it is by no means a sign of weakness, In fact, it takes far more strength to respond in the Spirit than to respond in the flesh. It shows great strength to respond in a Godly fashion, as Jesus did. Controlling our anger and our fleshly desire to get even may even seem like we've lost the battle or just surrendered to our adversary, but as with everything God asks of us, there is a reward in doing things God's way instead of ours.The Bible tells u

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he that rules his spirit is better than he who
overtakes a city. Proverbs 16:32

Slow to anger means we should not easily fly into a passion, nor should we react immdiately to provocation. Some people seem to go through life with a chip on their shoulder, always looking for a fight. Imagine that! Controlling our tempers and our actions when we are angry makes us BETTER than a mighty man who can overtake a whole city! Retaliating in kind never solves a problem, it only makes it worse. Any of our natural (that is, fleshly) responses to conflict only serve to make things worse. Being rude or beligerant, trying to justify ourselves, or trying to cut down our adversary with our words is useless, and will only increase tensions between us. We may win a battle of words, but we still lose.

We lose in at least two very important ways. First, we set ourselves up as God, for the Bible is clear: only God can judge someone else. When we usurp His position, we are hurting ourselves far more than than we hurt our adversary. We are basically saying, "Yes, I know what God's Word says, but I'm going to do this my way, anyway." We have sinned, and that hinders our close fellowship with our Father.

Second, we've lost a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit within us. When we look and act just like the rest of the world, there is nothing that shows the very real relationship we have with our Lord. In fact, if we look and act just like the rest of the world, can we truly even call Him our Lord, as He clearly tells us we are to be separate from the world, set apart for His holy purpose. And that purpose is to glorify God, and to share God's love and grace and mercy to others. In this way they may be won to Jesus.

We can open pathways of communication between us and our adversaries, if we are willing to humble ourselves and not respond in a like manner when we have been wronged. It isn't weakness to respond with self control and humility, it is strength. Are we strong enough to humble ourselves and turn the other cheek?

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and
evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And
be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one
another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32

How Are We To Treat Our Enemies? Part 1
How Are We To Treat Our Enemies? Part 2: Watch Your Mouth!
How Are We To Treat Our Enemies? Part 3: Turn The Other Cheek
Loving Our Enemies

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