Matthew 5: 38-42
I heard a new saying today that I want to share: "Don't get even with those who hurt you. Get even with those who helped you."
Wow, there is a lot of richness to that quote, so I want to inspect three ways to apply this as we execute a 7-day practical faith, in the midst of lives where people do hurt you and don't always help you.
My first takeaway is that we should respond to those who help us. Certainly we should be grateful for help and be sure to do our benefactors a good turn if possible.
The second takeaway considers something much more than appreciative payback. Rather, we should pay it forward.
As you may know, paying it forward is done because we cannot fully reward or compensate those who have helped us. The way we pay back is to share kindness with others as we are in a position to help.
For example, when I was a college student, I was pretty broke most of the time. I sponged a lot of meals from those around me, from my grandparents who lived nearby to my friends to the two girls around the corner in my apartment complex. Since I "borrowed" meals when I was short on money, I vowed to pay it forward by buying meals for pretty broke college students like I had been. Even decades later, if I'm having a meal with a college student, I insist on paying.
The third takeaway from that opening quote that I want to point out: The avoidance of retribution.
I was teaching a class when someone said, "You know, Jesus said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'." I said, "That's true. But he was speaking against it at the time!"
The actual verse (Matthew 5: 38-42) is this:
“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. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
I don't know about you, but this command is a bigger challenge for me than paying the food tab for college students. I wish I could describe how to easily do this, but it isn't easy to respond with calm, kindness and even docility to aggressive and offensive actions.
I remember a teenager telling me, "That turn-the-other-cheek-Jesus-stuff doesn't work in the real world." But Jesus didn't care about "what works," but rather, "what's right." Jesus set a standard of behavior that is little known in our world. As William Barclay wrote:
Few passages of the New Testament have more of the essence of the Christian ethic in them than this one.
Even at this point in my life, I don't have a deep, clever answer for you on "Five Easy Ways to Turn the Other Cheek." All I have for you is the advice to trust and obey Jesus. Trust that He knows what He is talking about, and follow His command with obedience.
Combining the initial saying with Jesus' command, the takeaways are: Don't get even with the people who hurt you, but absorb their blows, and hold yourself to a high ethical standard. Instead, get even with the people who help you, and spread kindness as you are inspired by that help.
Cecil Taylor Ministries teaches Christians how to live a 7-day practical faith. This means how to apply your faith in everyday situations throughout the week. One example is how to respond to crisis. Check out my book and small group video series, The Next Thing: A Christian Model for Dealing with Crisis in Personal Life. You can learn more at www.CecilTaylorMinistries.com/the-next-thing .