I have been doing some deep thinking about what Jesus taught about turning the other cheek. I had always thought of this teaching in terms of persecution that was undeserved that comes from the enemies of the cause of Christ. I suppose that I really knew it had other applications, but I had not contemplated them to any great extent. For instance, dare to think about what might provoke being struck on the cheek. Shouldn’t we think about the reality that sometimes occurs when we have gravely disappointed someone or carelessly offended them. I am not suggesting that these actions deserve being struck, but frankly I would sometimes rather be struck than rejected or counted as unworthy of further contact. Over the years there have been instances where members of the churches that I have served have so strongly disagreed with one of my decisions, or even the deliberative process that I seek to follow in order to make good decisions, that they left the church in disgust. It is impossible to explain the pain that my heart feels when people that I have sought to lovingly serve turn their backs. Especially when they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Being struck on the cheek would be mild in comparison and may even give some release through venting at such treatment. It is always possible that one deserves to be rejected from time to time, but this in no way lessens the pain. So how do you turn the other cheek? By continuing to love and pray for those who reject you, you leave yourself open in heart toward them and vulnerable to further injury. This is the Christlike response. The Lord forgives us knowing that we will likely fail again. We can also turn the other cheek by blessing and honoring those who have rejected us. We can make clear that we refuse to feel the same way toward them as their actions have displayed toward us. We can promote them and recommend them in appropriate ways based on our truly known awareness of their abilities and gifts. We can speak well of them on as many occasions as we have opportunity. We can continue to greet them warmly and profess our ongoing love and concern for them as we have opportunity. To some these actions may seem like weakness, but in reality they show a level of strength and maturity that is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit. Recently I caught a glimpse of such an action of turning the other cheek that I was in awe of the one who did so. We all fail. Pastors fail. People fail. Leaders fail. Church members fail. Failure can be turned in to victory when we can gracefully turn the other cheek. Somehow I think Jesus was teaching us about a way to turn our brokenness into blessing when he gave this difficult command. Grace is not only amazing; it is beautiful.

Dan Wooldridge

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