by Coye Bouyer
LANSING, MI – Jesus teaches, “if someone slaps you on the cheek, turn the other to them also” (Matt. 5:39-40). Paul says we are to “bless those who persecute us, to never pay back evil for evil to anyone and not to take revenge; rather if our enemy is hungry feed them, if they are thirsty to give them a drink” (Rom. 12:14,17,19-20).
In other words, Paul echoes Jesus’ words for us to practice the spiritual discipline of turning the other cheek or to patiently persevere with people. For clarity purposes, it is necessary to mention that Paul nor Jesus are addressing times of war or the protection of another. Rather both illuminate one’s response when being personally attacked by another. Both admonish us NOT to retaliate or seek revenge.
But how in the world are we supposed to overcome physical abuse, verbal assaults or actions from others who seek to do us harm? For not only do such actions hurt, they often leave us in physical pain or psychological and emotional instability. While Jesus’ statement is direct, Paul gives more insight to the practice and application of ‘turning the other cheek.’
Paul says, “we are to overcome evil, with good” (Romans 12:21). Paul makes it plain that the only way to practice ‘turning the other cheek,’ is to commit to a practice of doing good, even to one’s enemies.
Since doing good is not something that just happens, Paul gives us practical principles to live by to assist us in the execution ‘turning the other cheek.’ Paul says, bless instead of curse; never pay back evil for evil (wrong for wrong or offense for offense); Furthermore, he instructs us to live at peace, when possible, with everyone (Rom. 12:14,17,19-20).
Biblical responses like this take time, patience, and practice. Any successful athlete, actor or professional would agree that they did not get to the heights of their career without putting in long hours of practice, persistently trying to get it right. In the same way, you and I will never ‘overcome evil with good,’ if we don’t first spend much time practicing the spiritual discipline of patience with people, not returning wrong for wrong. To better deal with larger or more public attacks appropriately, we must first practice and perform in private; learning how to overcome the smaller, less offensive acts of others as it prepares us for greater and even more public execution of this biblical principle.
Secondly, we must learn how to take heed to Paul’s words, “Beloved leave room for the wrath of God.” In short, instead of executing our own judgement and consequences for being wronged, we let the LORD decide a person’s punishment. Wow, this is nothing short of a miracle, as the human heart not only desires to make sure our wrongs are made right, but we tend to want someone to suffer because they have offended us.
But what if we took to heart Jesus’ words to turn the other cheek; what if we took seriously the idea of surrendering our imbalanced sense of justice for God’s perfect sense of justice? You see too often we vindicate ourselves because we want Justice, and we want it now. We want the offender to deal with the consequences of offending us. But both Jesus and Paul are asking us to appeal to a different type of justice. A justice that says, I am okay with God deciding the fate of the one who has offended me, even if that means their punishment is one of grace and mercy and not vindication and wrath.
Isn’t this what happened to us on the Cross? Didn’t we offend the God of the universe? Don’t we deserve the penalty and consequence for our actions? After all, we are guilty, aren’t we? While it is true that God’s justice often ends with His wrath it is also true that it always starts with His grace and mercy.
Finally, Jesus’ and Pauls’ teaching on this subject is critical to every believer because it teaches us to be more like our Lord. It reminds us of the mercy we should demonstrate because of the mercy we have received. The biblical philosophy to ‘turn the other cheek’ or ‘patiently persevering with people’ can be experienced if we are willing to make the decision to commit to doing good, even to those who do evil against us.
Furthermore, this approach is made easier when we let God be both judge and vindicator not just for our lives, but also over our lives. So go forth my brothers and sisters practicing the spiritual discipline of ‘turning the other cheek,’ ‘patiently persevering with people’ as we ‘overcome evil with good.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pastor Coye L. Bouyer is the founding pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Lansing, MI where he has served since March of 2010. Pastor Bouyer recently stepped into the Diversity Ambassador role for the BSCM and firmly believes that he was not only called to Preach the Gospel as part of the process of reconciliation of man to God, but also using any platform as a bridge of reconciliation of man to man, and even more so amongst the brethren. Pastor Bouyer and his lovely wife Keturah (Gen. 25:1) have been married four over 20 years and have four children; Sierra, Seth, Cayla and Coye II.