When I was twelve years old, I was a tee-tiny little girl with a fierce heart. Evident the day when our next-door neighbor, Chris (who was at least three times my size) started bullying my little sisters. Big mistake!
You see, I went from being a tiny little butterfly into a fire-breathing dragon. I rushed outside, jumped as high as I could and launched my fist straight into Chris' face. Everyone was stunned (including myself), and poor Chris was left with a bloody nose and hurt ego.
I will never forget this day because it was the only time my temper got so out of control that I physically assaulted someone! Guess you could say, I turned the wrong “cheek” to that little boy!
I have matured a great deal since then, but I must admit there have been times I’ve been tempted to want to punch someone in the face!
Now, Jesus knew even His dearest followers might experience moments that carry us away into actions that are not very God-honoring. For instance, Peter, a Disciple of Jesus, attacked a guard and cut off his ear when they arrested Christ. An action of swift violence committed by a Christ follower in the heat of the moment. Jesus immediately responds by rebuking the behavior and reversing it by healing the man’s ear.
Jesus knows that anger, insults, hurt-feelings, and misunderstandings can quickly get the best of us. That is why He pointedly tells us in the Sermon on the Mount to "turn the other cheek." Stressing that retaliation and revenge ARE NOT acceptable responses--
"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.” Matthew 5:38-40
Jesus is talking to the spiritually mature, those who strive to be His followers. Jesus wants us to be the leaders in conflict resolution; striving for peace as much as we possibly can achieve. He calls us to extend grace and pursue reconciliation. He expects that if we are His followers, we will be obedient in our actions and responses. We will be the FIRST to turn our cheek when insulted; we will take that FIRST needed step towards reconciliation, and we will QUICKLY extend grace and forgiveness.
We all know that conflicts are going to happen, offenses will be made and feelings will get hurt. Sometimes we are the receiver, and sometimes we are the giver!
When things go sideways, and we’ve been hurt, or we’ve hurt another, Jesus instructs us to respond by:
1. Turning the Other Cheek:
Don’t give into hate. Don’t give into bitterness and self-pity. Don’t play the “victim card” and don’t go on the offensive to attack another's reputation. Regardless of who is "at fault" as Christians, we are called to be the spiritually mature "adult" in the situation. The offense isn't the point- our reaction is what matters.
2. Seeking Reconciliation:
The goal is always to try to repair the relationship, extend grace and purposefully see others beyond the action- to emphasize the why, and give them the benefit of the doubt. Remembering that we are ALL broken, weak, fragile; we carry heavy burdens and past hurts of our own that can negatively influence our behavior.
3. Without Delay:
Jesus calls us to act quickly and considers this as a spiritual act of such significance that it comes before worship and offerings. "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” ~Matthew 5:23-24
Act immediately before the dark side of resentment takes root and grows into something insurmountable.
Best way to complete these steps is to own your part and be willing to take the first stride to share honest feelings, opening the door to healing and shutting the door on the bait of offense.
If you have wronged or offended someone be willing to go to them and ask, “Are we OK?”
If you were offended by another, quickly go to them with your feelings and start with giving them the benefit of the doubt. Something like, “Do you have a minute to talk? I know you didn’t mean this, but yesterday you really hurt my feelings with the way you spoke to me. I'm sure you didn't mean it, but I wanted to share my feelings with you and not let them fester.”
Now, I know many reading this might be questioning what happens when you've done all the above, and your relationship is still in shambles? When the other person just won’t cooperate and reconcile.
When we've exhausted every possible avenue for reconciliation, we need to be OK with letting go. If the other person is habitually unsafe, unwilling to work on the relationship and continues patterns of harm- Jesus knows you've done all you can, and it's OK to let go. The Bible even instructs us on dealing with a quarrelsome person:
“Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him. It's obvious that such a person is out of line, rebellious against God. By persisting in divisiveness, he cuts himself off.” ~Titus 3:10-11
Friends, Jesus has a better way. He wants you to turn the proper “cheek” and always try to seek peace!
Father, you are the ultimate peace-maker. It is through the gift of Christ that we can be reconciled back to you. Help us, Lord, when we are offended or have offended another not to let hate take root, to be the first to seek reconciliation and do so with urgency. Guide us Lord in our steps and help us to know when we have exhausted all measures and a quarrelsome person needs to be released to you.
Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. ~Psalm 34:10