November 25, 2013

Turn the other cheek?

Have you ever had a time when you felt like God was trying to tell you something? I have felt that way a lot lately, and it's not something new either.
I have this person in my life who I would consider my "thorn in the flesh" as Paul called it in 2 Corinthians. This "thorn" is something different for everybody. Paul said, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) I guess maybe God gave me my thorn for a very similar reason.  If we don't have these thorns, we'd likely become proud in our own accomplishments instead of depending on God. My thorn has been teaching me a lot of things.
God has been showing me that I need to really forgive this person and not take what they say to heart. This person often criticizes me and blames me for everything even when it is not really my fault. I am this person's scapegoat, and it drives me crazy.
Our pastor has been going through the sermon on the mount for several weeks now, and a few weeks ago, he was using Matthew 5:38-42, the "eye for an eye" passage. (Disclaimer: You'll have to forgive me because I often do not repeat things as other people say them so if I say something wrong, it is not the pastor's fault.)  What I got out of this was that when people are attacking us, our first reaction is to defend ourselves and strike back. In this passage, Jesus was telling them NOT to fight back, but instead to turn the other cheek.  Does it really matter what other people say to us or about us? NO! It does not.  That is only one person's opinion and often it does not matter what we do or say to this person, their opinion will never change about us. (This passage is not necessarily literal in the sense that if somebody hits you, you should just take it because that's not what it's saying. IF somebody hits you, you need to protect yourself.  You shouldn't hit back, but you should get away from that person.)  This is a paraphrase of what our pastor said:

We need to become numb to the need to retaliate.  Be free from what other people think and say about you.  This does not mean that you shouldn't protect yourself.  Sacrifice your pride and honor to do what is right.  Avoid evil as much as you can, but there are times when action needs to be taken.  When that time comes, check your motive.  If you are protecting yourself, don't retaliate.  If it is protecting someone else, do it!  We do not have to protect our rights.

I was reminded, once again, of this the other day while reading through 1 Peter 3.  Verse 3 talks about having a gentle and quiet spirit.  I asked myself "How do I get a gentle and quiet spirit?"  Then, "Give everything to God" popped into my mind.  Verse 8 says, "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble."  This verse reminds me that I need to live in harmony with others, including my thorn.  Once again, it also reminds me that I need to be humble and compassionate and sympathetic.  There have been times when I have thought I've done a pretty good job at doing these things, but then... something happens and that all goes down the drain.  It always reminds me how there is NO WAY I can do this on my own.  My flesh is weak, but my spirit (Jesus living in me) is strong.  I need to be more in tune with my spirit.

Verse 9 says, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."  While reading this I was automatically reminded of what our pastor had said about turning the other cheek.  I wrote, "If someone insults you, let it roll off and return with a blessing.  Swallow your pride.  If they insult God or someone else, then respond with a reprimand."   This verse reminds me of so many other verses in the Bible.  One being Proverb 27:2 "Let another praise you and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips."  This verse hits the subject from the other side, but means about the same thing.  It all seems to boil down to pride.
Some other verses to take into consideration:
Romans 12:21 "Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good."
Matthew 5:38-42 "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 someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
Matthew 5:43-48  "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Food for thought. What is your motive?