I have been doing some deep thinking about what Jesus taught about turning the other cheek. I had always thought of this teaching in terms of persecution that was undeserved that comes from the enemies of the cause of Christ. I suppose that I really knew it had other applications, but I had not contemplated them to any great extent. For instance, dare to think about what might provoke being struck on the cheek. Shouldn’t we think about the reality that sometimes occurs when we have gravely disappointed someone or carelessly offended them. I am not suggesting that these actions deserve being struck, but frankly I would sometimes rather be struck than rejected or counted as unworthy of further contact. Over the years there have been instances where members of the churches that I have served have so strongly disagreed with one of my decisions, or even the deliberative process that I seek to follow in order to make good decisions, that they left the church in disgust. It is impossible to explain the pain that my heart feels when people that I have sought to lovingly serve turn their backs. Especially when they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Being struck on the cheek would be mild in comparison and may even give some release through venting at such treatment. It is always possible that one deserves to be rejected from time to time, but this in no way lessens the pain. So how do you turn the other cheek? By continuing to love and pray for those who reject you, you leave yourself open in heart toward them and vulnerable to further injury. This is the Christlike response. The Lord forgives us knowing that we will likely fail again. We can also turn the other cheek by blessing and honoring those who have rejected us. We can make clear that we refuse to feel the same way toward them as their actions have displayed toward us. We can promote them and recommend them in appropriate ways based on our truly known awareness of their abilities and gifts. We can speak well of them on as many occasions as we have opportunity. We can continue to greet them warmly and profess our ongoing love and concern for them as we have opportunity. To some these actions may seem like weakness, but in reality they show a level of strength and maturity that is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit. Recently I caught a glimpse of such an action of turning the other cheek that I was in awe of the one who did so. We all fail. Pastors fail. People fail. Leaders fail. Church members fail. Failure can be turned in to victory when we can gracefully turn the other cheek. Somehow I think Jesus was teaching us about a way to turn our brokenness into blessing when he gave this difficult command. Grace is not only amazing; it is beautiful.
Be forewarned that my subject in this post is troubling. All indications are that being a bible believing Christian is becoming the stance of a smaller and smaller minority of people in the United States. Already public schools on the West coast are openly teaching the beliefs of the Islamic faith on the one hand while expressly excluding the bible from the campus. The former is considered progressive, and the latter a necessity so as not to offend anyone. Christians who take Scripture seriously are excluded as bigots. Professors in many state universities openly mock Christian students and threaten them before the classes with failing grades if they dare to put forward their views. Go on the internet to baptiststandard.com and read the article concerning the stress in the American military. Chaplains are charged with proselytizing if they advocate faith in Christ. Many chaplains are considering resignation if the trends continue. Pressure is placed on them not to espouse views that are contrary to the current cultural drift. To refer to homosexuality in biblical terms is to be punished say some. Challenging people to live by a biblical ethic is regarded as naive and neanderthal.
I am not exaggerating when I say that many in our culture consider a bible believing Christian a bigger threat to American life than a fundamentalist Muslim. I know that sounds insane when the fanatical Muslims sometimes want to kill those who do not follow their ethic, but a Scripture comes to mind, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
So here’s my question. When a businessman is boycotted because he is a serious Christian will he still stand up for Christ? When a student is graded down or even failed because they take God’s word seriously will they still stand? When a church is vandalized or picketed because they persist with a biblical faith will they cave in to the culture? I am not speaking about the future. I am speaking about things that are happening right now. Will you stand?
I must keep a promise that I made on Sunday. The song that I shared with the children has at least three verses. The last verse is a blast!
The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength.
He giveth living water and I thirst no more. (Twice more repeated and then . . .) The joy of the Lord is my strength.
He fills my heart with laughter I go Ah! Ha! Ha! (Twice more repeated and then . . . ) The joy of the Lord is my strength.
Ah! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! (Twice more repeated and then . . .) The joy of the Lord is my strength.
I dare you to sing it if you can remember the melody. It will put a smile on the face of young and old alike.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Neh. 8:10
There are seven mysterious things associated with the mystery of Christ. The word “musterion” is used in each of these cases. This is Greek for mystery. It involves something hidden that has now been revealed to believers.
1. The Incarnation of Christ 1 Timothy 3:16
2. The indwelling of Christ in the believer Colossians 1:26-27
3. The Church made up of Jews and Gentiles Ephesians 1:9
4. Israel’s blindness Romans 11:25-26
5. The Rapture 1 Corinthians 15:50
6. The mystery of iniquity and the rise of the Man of Sin 2 Thessalonians 2:7
7. The mystery of the Church as the Bride of Christ. Ephesians 5:32
No wonder Paul spoke of the “Mystery of Christ”. Here is a sevenfold mystery that has been revealed to us.
“JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER.” So much has changed in the years since I first began my journey of following Jesus. I can hardly recognize the culture of America. Some things are a little better, but many things are in decline. The decline of the values and way of life of the American people is heart breaking, but some things never change. People are still being drawn to Jesus. I have many opportunities to talk to hungry and thirsty souls who are seeking the satisfaction that only Jesus can give. Just yesterday I heard the testimony of two people who were hungry for God and eager to follow Jesus. Sin still brings misery and destruction. People may disregard God’s laws and trample on his Word, but ultimately they do not break his commandments, his commandments break them. Sin always comes with a price. The good news is that when some lie broken on the ground they finally look up. God is still on the throne. The world is not out of his control no matter how chaotic it may appear. I was amazed to hear the Prime Minister of Israel recount the story of Esther in his recent visit to the U. S. He stated an understanding of his place in history in Biblical terms. When was the last time you heard an American leader do that. God is speaking to us in the unfolding drama of history. One of the things he is saying is actually recorded in the Scripture. “Surely I come quickly!” Let us respond, “Even so, Come Lord Jesus.”