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21 January 2008

Wanna Fight, Huh? Fight ME!

Know what? People who don’t give a whit about Jesus give to the poor. They can have great personalities. They love other people. What makes the Christ-follower different? If people outside of our faith demonstrate all these good traits, it takes the wind out of our sails when we say, “People know that I’m a Christian because I tithe/am nice to people/love people.”

Last night at our service a visiting Gideon told the story of a Christian who was in prison in Indonesia. A radical Muslim man was later incarcerated in the same cell. It was said that the Muslim man beat the Christian daily; often multiple times. The story ended with the Muslim man’s conversion to Christianity (and his becoming a Gideon), but I got stuck on the fact that the Christian man simply let the other fellow beat him.


Not only would that physically hurt, but it would be humiliating! I played the scenario out in my mind, imagining how the Christ-follower had to swallow his pride and daily do what apparently showed that he was the weaker person – take a beating for no reason. I don’t like admitting any weakness, so I can imagine that, even if I wound up losing, I’d want to be fighting back.

Chances are not too good that you and I will have the opportunity to take Jesus’ words literally – “If someone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other one, also.” In other areas of the world, though, the chances for Christ-followers to practice this may be numerous.

However, we still have plenty of opportunities to obey this instruction of Jesus right where we are. Having someone question our motives or slander us without reason can be maddening or personally insulting. More simply, making plans with someone only to have them cancel (and finding out later that they went and hung out with someone else) can hurt.

“Turning the other cheek” goes against the grain of human nature. We justify our angry and indignant reprisals by telling ourselves things like this:

“That’s not what Jesus meant.”
“I’ve got to stand up for myself.”
“It’s the principle of the thing.”

“It will make me look weak.”
“People will think I’m stupid!”

When we make excuses for our actions like this, our religious-sounding “turn the other cheek” becomes more of a platitude than a personal directive of Jesus that we will obey. The kicker is, this kind of thinking is so ingrained in us that we may not even think to question our reactions and responses unless we begin to become very deliberate in analyzing why we do what we do.

The next time you hear that Bobbie Sue said something bad about you, do good stuff for her! Better yet, don’t wait for her to say something bad about you – do the good stuff now. As I’ve mentioned about other situations, this is an area where we need to remember our childhood Sunday School lessons and stop thinking that we were allowed to grow out of them to some next level.

10 comments:

Tony M said...

Back in the Navy I had a friend who was, probably, a "better person" than I was, all things considered. But he wasn't a Christian. (He was stuck on the "predestined" thing - that if God already knows everything, then he (my friend) didn't have to accept Him (God), since if he (my friend) was going to, it would happen, and if he wasn't, it wouldn't, so there was no use for him to consider making a choice about Him (God); time after time I tried to show him (my friend) the truth of the Bible, that we really do have to make the choice - unfortunately, at the time I left the Navy, he still hadn't opened up to the truth; but this is really a completely different topic, so I won't continue in this comment.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: there's a pretty good post closely related to this here which I recently read.

But you're right - we ("Christians") often end up slandering (may not be the right word) Christianity by our actions, how our behaviors don't agree with our professed beliefs. Sort of like that Carman (?) quote in the DC Talk song about "Christians who profess Jesus with their lips and go out and deny Him with their lifestyles" - it doesn't have to be the "big, bad sins" that cause people to think, "Hey, he says he's a Christian, yet he acts just like I do, so what's different about him? Why should I bother going to church - or listening to him - when I already live like him?"

I think it would be difficult for me to sit there and take that beating, day after day, too. Maybe that's why I'm not in prison somewhere for Christ - I wouldn't be a good example; I have enough trouble trying to keep my "living witness" fresh when driving down University Drive, or when standing in line and some guy cuts in front of me, or when... yeah, you get the point.

"You'll show the world you're my disciples by loving each other" (John 13:35, paraphrased). And while Jesus was speaking with the disciples at that moment, consider some of his other words in Matthew, where he talks about loving people, even your enemies. But I think you already said that.

By the way, strange title of your post... :)

Preston N said...

Tony

Point well made. I recently posted on my blog that Lifeway Research conducted a survey whereby they polled Non-Christians in the US about their opinions of Christians. 72% of those persons polled said they thought Christians were hypocrites. If that is not alarming enough, of that same population 78% said they would like to know more about the Christian faith.

Dean's words (and yours) ring so true. The big issue is why are Christians living so contrary to the words of Jesus (not to mention that even the unsaved have a better concept of how Christians should live). For me that's the $64,000 question.

Christy said...

Unfortunately I'm not always good at turning the other cheek. When I was in the work force, I was always quick to shoot off at the mouth if something perturbed me or if I felt attacked. At one time I worked w/ a lady who is a Mormon. Her lifestyle was way more Christian than mine was! It always shamed me when I would have an outburst over something and then she would be so calm and forgiving. I tried to reassure myself that the reason she displayed such behavior was b/c she was "working" her way to salvation and that I was saved by grace. That mentality is what our pastor has been preaching against - abusing grace! I would like to say that I have outgrown my tendencies to blow up when I feel threats toward myself or my loved ones (I'm even worse when it comes to my family and friends), but sadly I have not. Just last night I read in James how we are to "be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry". I have a long way to go.

Tony M said...

I'd just like to add that it doesn't have to be something explosive that can counter our professed Christianity... it can be the quiet, subdued "stewing" that people can read in our eyes and on our faces. Our body language can be quite effective at conveying our true emotional state of mind, the thoughts behind the actions we may or may not have actually taken.

Sometimes we don't realize how effective our body language is until someone else points it out or asks a question like, "what's wrong with you?" That body language may reveal the true inner thoughts that Jesus said were the real indicators of our nature: "It is what comes from inside that defiles you" (see Mark 7:1-20).

And he had already mentioned how "being angry at someone makes you guilty of murder" (paraphrased, but the point's the same). It's the attitude that's the real sin, not the action (which is simply the sin put into action).

Whoops, guess I need to work on my driving skills... not the driving, but the reacting internally (and/or externally) to those idio- er, people who I'm sure innocently, accidentally cut me off in traffic...

amateur said...

Interesting. Not too long ago I read a post on forgivness after following a link on this, your blog, which, if I understood it correctly (against the odds, that) had a...different? point of view:

"For years I have heard people say if someone wrongs you must forgive them, regardless if they seek forgiveness. But the more I read God's Word the more I see this is in fact not found in the scriptures." (For more, follow link above)

I can see reason in both, so I'm still confused. I once wrote an emotional post on forgiveness that I never published since it was just that, emotional. Maybe I need to take another look at that and publish it in hopes that some of you might clarify some of the confusion...

Dean Lusk said...

While I wouldn't be totally shocked to find that Preston and I have some differing perspectives on some things, I thought he made some very good points with that post.

To address my post, though (and to split hairs), it's never mentioned that the Christian in the story I relayed forgave the Muslim fellow unasked. He turned the other cheek.

Feel free to e-mail me if you don't want to post the emotional thingy you mentioned for everyone to see.

amateur said...

Oh, yeah, you're right! I was lumping the two together since I was applying both writings to one of my situations. Oops. No wonder I get so confused.

Hmm, I'll still think about posting it. Thanks, though. (And thanks for visiting my blog as well!)

Preston N said...

I would say turning the other cheek has nothing to do with forgiveness, but rather not retaliating or seeking vengeance. When i read the story of the Christian and the Muslim I got that the gentleman was not retaliating.

As for Mat 5:39, isn't that what Jesus is saying here - to watch the motives of our heart when someone sins against you?

amateur said...

Yes, that's what I meant -- that I was equating the two when I shouldn't have been.

Tony M said...

I think you are correct, Preston, about the interpretation of Matt 5:39. In fact, this whole passage has that flavor to it, set up in vs. 13-20, where He indicates that He didn't come to abolish the law, followed up by this: "unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!" (NLT, courtesy BibleGateway.com)

The point he's making (I think) is that while the religious leaders of the time made a great point to be "perfect" in (outward) appearance, their motives, and their thoughts, didn't support their claims. In fact, this parallels the segment where the Pharisees confront Jesus about His disciples not washing their hands before they eat, and He says that comment about "it's not what goes in that defiles you, it's what comes from within" (over in Mark 7). It's not the outward actions (rituals, etc.); it's your inward attitude (thoughts, etc.) that are really the indicators of your nature; the hate, the jealousy, the envy, the calling people names when they cut you off in traffic (ooh... that one gets me; is that really in the Bible?), the cold shoulder you give someone because of their recent affront towards you (which may have been completely accidental, you know; and, of course, you may justify this by saying, "I don't want to say or do something that would offend them, so I'll just keep my distance..." while there may be some instances where that is a good idea, you should examine your thoughts to make sure you're not really doing it because you're harboring ill feelings towards that person, or perhaps even in an attempt to deliberately make them feel bad about the incident or whatever).

Ok, 'nough from me...

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