I had a strange, yet meaningful dream last night.
I was sitting at a kitchen table surrounded by people. Some I knew, some I didn’t. But there was one person sitting across from me, a family member, who was irate. They were angrily ranting. Someone had done them wrong and they were keen on drumming up our support and stirring up our ire against their wrongdoer.
In the dream, I felt my mouth open and words start to form. They weren’t my own. They, instead, seemed to come from someone else and only come out through my lips.
I said, “Jesus said to turn the other cheek. But that doesn’t mean we have to be passive.”
Exactly why I dreamt this puzzles me, but I hardly think that’s the point. The takeaway, I think, is the more important lesson from my dream. It is partly, I believe, that God still speaks to us through many means – including dreams! It is also, perhaps most importantly, that Jesus commanded us to love our enemies.
As Christians, we are called to do something altogether different than the rest of the world: to submit. This is a radical concept in a society that’s all about self-preservation. If someone does you wrong, repay them, the world says. But Jesus Christ taught something radically different.
“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.” — Matthew 5:38-39
These words of Jesus are still as startling today as they were those many years ago. Submit to evil? Allow someone to insult me? Even harm me? I’m not saying it’s an easy teaching. I’m just reiterating the point. Jesus said it. God said it!
Maybe you’ve been there. Your order got messed up in the drive-thru line. Your luggage got misplaced at the airport. Someone said something nasty and untrue about you. Perhaps someone even tried to wrongfully harm you. What was your response? More importantly, what message did your response send to evil? That it won? Or that it didn’t overcome you?
Biblical truths can be seen everywhere in today’s society, albeit after being put through a secular filter. “Kill ’em with kindness,” it is often said. While this is an improvement on repaying evil with evil, it is still not the pure truth. The biblical passage from which this distortion is derived is actually what Jesus taught: to simply love. Regardless of misdeed. Regardless of evil. Regardless of how loudly the sinful disposition inside you may scream, “Revenge!”
Our intent as Christians should never be to “kill” with kindness, but to show mercy and grace (the love of Christ) to an unrepentant world. Everything that we do and say should point to Christ and the need for Him. Our response to evil, even evil directed as us, should make the offender ask, “What do they have that I don’t?”
Acts of kindness towards our enemies are not passive; they are far from it! The turning of the proverbial cheek is, instead, a radical response to the wrongdoing we will inevitably face in a fallen world. It may be the most radical thing we do as Christians. To be kind in the face of a wrongdoing. To pray for those who hate us. In short, to love our enemies.
It’s not always easy. But nothing in the Christian life is easy. The callings we have may be simple, but are seldom easy. If they were, what need would we have for God’s help? Indeed, the evil we all must face each day has a purpose: to draw us to God and to shine his light boldly back into the darkness whence it came.
It’s interesting to note that darkness is not a substance in and of itself, but instead merely the absence of light. That puts the responsibility on the Christian to shine as much of it out as possible. Even when it may seem like a daunting task.
A prayer for today:
“Father, loving our enemies is one of, if not the, hardest thing you called us to do. But you commanded it. Help me to follow your commandments today. When someone does me wrong, allow me to show them the same mercy you show me. Allow me to be a beacon of your light and hope this day. Not so that I may be glorified, but that You might be glorified. Work through me to show compassion to those who need it. Help me to forgive my enemies and to pray for them. For I know you want to work through me for the sake of the gospel. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”