2008-12-14 - Turn the other cheek by monkey6


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Turn the other cheek

Preached by Brent Russell at Protea Valley Family Church 14th December 2008

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One of the key truths about us being Christians is that we are supposed to be different And different is not a good word for most of us We spend our childhood and school years trying as hard as we could to not be different We wanted to be like everyone else, we all wanted to blend in and not really stand out from the crowd Because to stand out was not always a good thing, it meant that we became the objects of unwanted attention Of course as we head to university and work, standing out becomes less of a bad thing But for most of us we don’t really want to stand out from the crowd

Now if that is the case then perhaps the Christian faith is not for you As Christians we are called to a different way of living The Bible tells us that we are “in this world but we are not of this world” We live here, but we do not belong here And a bit like an exchange student who has a slightly odd mannerism, style of speech and even dress sense Christians are supposed to stand out from the crowd in some way We’re supposed to be a little different from the people in whose midst we live

Now I am not advocating being like the Amish and wearing strange clothes or talking with 300 year old English But in the way that we value things, in the way that we interact and respond to the world, we should be different – this is one of the messages that the NT continually inspires us towards And here Jesus gives us some practical advice about of some of the things that the people of his time where facing – as much as we do now Read Matt 5:32-38


This passage has been misinterpreted by many to mean that we have to be pacifists who simply accept what is thrown our way


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People say that we have to be door mats who accept our stuff being stolen and people beating us Basically that Christians become woosies who cannot stand up for themselves But that is not a good interpretation at all of this passage at and in fact misses the point entirely The Jesus of the scriptures is not door mat, he never advocates us being doormats And so these ideas bear a little unpacking so that we can properly apply them to our lives here and now


Again, as last week there are some subtle cultural things that most of us will miss, I certainly missed them for a long time until I began study the passage more closely

Turn the other cheek • Jesus says: “You have heard it said, but I tell you “ a reminder that he is not undoing the law but returning to the spirit of the law, correcting misunderstandings that where common in his time • And the law he quotes is Exodus 21:23-25 "But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise." An ancient law that limited the amount justice you could seek to whatever damage had been done to you The law was there so that people could seek restitution and retribution but in a limited capacity The problem was that as with most laws people where abusing them And Jesus then begins to point out the spirit or the heart of the law as God intended it to be

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So Jesus says “Do not resist an evil person” This is a strange instruction for us in a desperately crime ridden country And in Jesus time things where as bad If you where travelling some of the back roads there where thieves who would accost travellers and rob them – hence the story of the good Samaritan was particularly relevant The Jewish people where living in occupied territory with particularly cruel roman oppression But the Bible makes provision in many places for resisting evil, and even for self defence Exodus 22:2 "‘‘If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed;" The Bible has many rules and regulations for controlling evil and for dealing with evil people And Jesus himself resists evil people in many places in the scriptures So: what’s the deal?


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Well the original words that Jesus used have to do with a fight or a war So he is not saying don’t resist – the translation is unhelpful Jesus is saying don’t fight back on the same violent terms Don’t go to war with an evil person Don’t try to rectify this by the same means that the evil person is doing Don’t fight fire with fire, it just ends in a cycle of violence that helps no one

Jesus is not saying don’t fight – but he is saying that people who follow him fight with different rules We are called to be different And one of the ways that we do this is to not fight violence with violence We are to seek peace with the people around us

Then Jesus speaks about turning the other cheek This passage has been abused by many when it comes to husbands beating wives I wish that were not true but some confused people have misunderstood this Jesus is underlining this exact same principle again He is teaching us to resist evil in a non-violent way

So let me explain a little about the other check First thing: In Jesus time everything was done with the right hand, because, well, the left hand was used for more unsavoury things You were not even allowed to gesture in public with your left hand Second thing: the word strike here means to hit someone with an open hand – not a fist Third thing: Jesus here speaks of the right cheek Now let’s do some thinking for a second – right hand, open, right cheek That means this person has slapped you in the face with the back of their hand This is not a fight or a mugging or a beating - this is an insult This is a degrading slap that says I am better than you In Jesus time this is a slave being hit by his master or a husband hitting a wife or a parent to a child or a Roman to a Jew



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There are a number of things in the Bible about this that will help us to make this more relevant to us Even if we might never be slapped in the face literally – we are often slapped in the face figuratively

Insult is a blessing o Firstly in some sense this if this insult happens to you because of your faith – their insult is a blessing o Matthew 5:11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." o We are different to the world, we do not see the need to respond insult with insult o We see the insult as the blessing it is because our faith must then be evident to those around us o If it is because of something that Jesus is doing in you that makes you the object of ridicule – if someone insults you because you are a Christian- celebrate in the blessing of what that insult means o It means you are a little different – and in God’s eyes that is a blessing o Rather to be counted right with God – than right with the people around you Make the person address you with respect o Secondly Jesus is not proclaiming that we lie down when people insult us o Jesus himself never does that except at the end when he gives himself to be crucified o Jesus stands up for the truth even when it gets him mocked and beaten

o So Jesus says– turn the other cheek, and this has some interesting applications here o It has been suggested by some NT scholars that what Jesus is saying is if you’re going to slap me you better do it on my left check where you must strike me as an equal:


Jesus is saying don’t let them get the better of you – don’t let them think that they are better than you

o Don’t fight back and continue the spiral of violence – that’s cool, we understand o The insult is a blessing – that’s cool, we understand o And then Jesus is saying make this person respect you with dignity o You don’t have to run, you don’t have to cower, you don’t have to strike back


o Remember at school some person would say something to you in passing o Almost behind your back, you hear a whispered insult and lots of sniggering o Jesus is saying here, don’t let the insult pass by o Stop and confront o “I’m pretty certain I heard you say something there. What did you say? Because if you’re going to insult me – do it to my face – as an equal” o You can insult me but do not pretend that you are somehow better than me o Of course our school response was always to trade insult with insult o But Christians don’t do that – we’re called to a different way of life

o But we do stand up for our rights as children of the God who made the universe o We have been created in his image and we are worthy of respect and dignity and we should let no one suggest to us otherwise o Part of our faith response is to assume a certain dignified opinion about ourselves as children of God

Being sued • Jesus then uses the illustration of being sued • • • • • • • • • • • • Much as it is today the wealthy of Jesus time had all the power All the people Jesus is talking to are the common people – people who would have understood what it is to be at the receiving end of skewed justice People who because of their poverty had to loan money from the wealthy who often abused those in need Because money tends to be able to by power And if you’re going to be sued, Jesus says, and they take your coat, give them your tunic as well This is an interesting illustration In Jesus time you had no underpants – that’s in no jocks Hence the song swing low sweet chariots So your main garment was your tunic a thin robe like garment And then you had your coat a thicker over-garment So Jesus is saying here let him take it all that you might stand in court naked as a baby

The interesting thing is that in Jewish culture nakedness itself was not shameful but to see someone naked was



When Noah gets drunk and lands up lying naked in his tent he is angered by his son Ham seeing him naked

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And so to allow your adversary to take your tunic as well and leave you naked was not shameful to you, but shameful to him who has caused you to be naked So Jesus is saying here if you are sued unjustly let the guy take your cloak – heck give him your tunic – that you might stand naked before him in the court before all the people and bring scorn on him who has treated you in a demeaning way It is not about vengeance – that is God’s job Romans 12:17-21 "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." This is about living in a different way This is not about protecting the dignity of those who have wronged you, which we often do This is not about us trying to fight them on their grounds This is the obnoxious idiot who constantly takes advantage of you or mocks you and you treat him with dignity and respect because by doing that because you make it obvious to the world that you are different – your life becomes a testimony And it becomes obvious that this person is indeed evil

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Conclusion • • • We are called to live a different life and we are called to respond in a different way to these kind of situations Some of you probably get insulted and treated like second class citizens in your work place because of faith We respond by seeking truth and justice, not by trading insult with insult or responding with violence

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Too often I find myself feeling almost apologetic for being a Christian because it means we stick out a bit I find myself having to justify myself or having to apologize for my faith because others think it stupid to believe in a God whom you cannot see We are mocked on TV shows, movies and radio stations


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Just this week was an article about Christian organization who are saying that Santa Claus is the new pagan God of greed – and they’re right But they’re being mocked for thinking that way And Jesus is saying here do not buy into the worlds way of thinking You are more valuable than you would ever believe Do not accept it when people make themselves out to be better than you You have been baptized into this faith, marked by God as belonging to his people And you will be raised to new life in the resurrection that Jesus promises for those who believe in him Don’t believe it when the world mocks you for your faith and makes you feel stupid or insignificant or irrelevant We’re called to a different life

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Don’t buy into the worlds method of response, Jesus says Violence and anger beget violence and anger unless someone like YOU breaks that cycle We’re called to a different life We respond in surprising ways because the Spirit will help us in those moments giving us the words to say

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Do not buy into the belief that you are supposed to be a doormat Jesus never was – so why should you be? This passage is about restoring dignity and self confidence in God’s people who have always been at the receiving end This is about reclaiming our worth in God’s eyes, our inherent value as his children And then helping others to reclaim it too

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