April 3, 2022 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Marcus Smith –

“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” (Matthew 5:39 NIV).

This verse reveals one of the many ways in which the economy of God is the opposite of the economy of the world. How many people, merely when threatened, rush to defend themselves with force? People operating under the world’s economy seek the biggest weapon, the smartest put-down, the solidarity of friends to lock out an offender. Whatever resource will defeat an enemy physically, mentally or even socially becomes acceptable.

Yet in the race to win, what is forgotten is God’s call. God calls us not to win, but to love.

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-4).

Christians do not have the privilege of hating their enemies or of failing to pray for them. Although not expressly forbidden, the reliance on physical weapons is discouraged as Matthew 26:52 and Revelation 13:10 warn that those who kill with weapons are themselves subject to such death. Likewise, when we find enemies on any number of other less lethal but no less spiritually damaging arenas we must consider whether our response should leap to the weapons of that arena.

As a young man growing up in Texas, my enemy could take the form of another young man. Perhaps even a friend. And with few unkind words, a flurry of fists and dirt and blood, another battle would be over. Another victory won. Another cheek not turned.

Among women, the conflict increasingly looks the same, but Rachel Simmons in her recently revised breakaway best seller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls reports on the devastating consequences of social exclusion and ostracism in female culture. From dirty looks and taunting notes, to sudden removal and ostracism from even an established group of friends, girls have their own techniques for punishing their social enemies.

As we struggle in this life, it makes perfect sense, natural sense, common sense for us to hit back when someone attacks. And if we have the opportunity, why not hit first? If we have an opponent we cannot out debate, we can strike first in a new arena by attacking them socially.

Christians have an even trickier struggle as we are prone to spiritualize personal strife. Our enemies become spiritual enemies, our struggles with them become discussed in spiritual rather than personal terms, and our disagreements move us to create spiritual walls that separate us into convenient camps of worthy and unworthy.

But Matthew 5:43-4 teaches us the mark of God’s presence in a person’s life is that they do not hit back, much less hit first, or hit in a new way.

To be a Christian is to set aside any mindset that prevents us from treating our enemies, all our enemies, with love and prayer. Only then do we display the presence of Christ in our lives.

As Oswald Chambers writes, “…you cannot imitate the nature of Jesus—it is either in you or it is not. A personal insult becomes an opportunity for a saint to reveal the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.” He goes on to say in eloquence that, “It is not your duty to go the second mile, or to turn the other cheek, but Jesus said that if we are His disciples, we will always do these things. We will not say, ‘Oh well, I just can’t do any more, and I’ve been so misrepresented and misunderstood.’”

The call of these passages does not go out to those with specific spiritual gifts. The call is not to be listened to under the right circumstances. The call is not to be obeyed whenever it is convenient. More than duty, our service to God is both privilege and sacred trust, and in our service, we never cease to offer mercy, never cease to offer compassion, never cease to offer love. The call of the Christian then is to represent God’s love in this fallen world.

About Marcus Smith

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