Take the High Road
“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.”
Luke 6:27-30 (MSG)
Is this one of those scriptures we would rather ignore? Should we really allow people to abuse us? Perhaps put ourselves in danger physically or emotionally? Should an abused person let someone continue to grind them down unchallenged, perhaps to the point where they might end up dead? Should we be victims?
As victims or potential victims, our natural human instinct is to retaliate with thoughts of punishment or getting revenge, and whilst the majority of people won’t play out physical violence, the words we express about a perpetrator often indicate attitudes lacking grace.
Like much of the Bible, we should not read passages in isolation, but consider the context and what other passages say. The above paragraph is taken from the ‘sermon on the mount’ also covered in Matthew 5. The phrase ‘turn the other cheek’ is often quoted from here. So should we let someone slap us in the face? Are we supposed to condone assault or violence upon our person?
In John 18 Jesus was arrested and tied up in a garden at night, then taken by Roman soldiers and temple guards to be interrogated. Notice what happened when he answered Annas, chief priest, in verses 22-23, “When he said this, one of the policemen standing there slapped Jesus across the face, saying, ‘How dare you speak to the Chief Priest like that!’ Jesus replied, ‘If I’ve said something wrong, prove it. But if I’ve spoken the plain truth, why this slapping around?’” Christ didn’t say ‘here, slap me on the other cheek,’ … he asked why did you slap me when I said nothing wrong!
In the ‘sermon on the mount,’ Christ is not talking about encouraging repeated violence or using the ‘eye for an eye principle’ to get even. It’s a phrase that means do not retaliate. As verse 30 above says ‘No tit for tat stuff.’ This principle is reinforced elsewhere, e.g. Ephesians 4:26-27, “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry, but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.” 1 Peter 3:9 (NET) says, “Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing.”
Taking revenge and retaliating has negative consequences and is bad for us. Forgiveness is good for us. We are no longer victims when we forgive. Ephesians 4:31 tells us, “Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” The message of grace is about God loving us before we even knew Him, and how we should love others likewise. It’s about extending that message of grace to everyone around us.
Does forgiving mean we justify a person’s wrong actions? Does forgiving mean they get away with unacceptable behaviour? No it does not. The Bible repeatedly talks about consequences to sin. There are laws, policies, constitutions, etc that people are required to abide by. Loving and forgiving enemies does not mean we should not stand up for what is right. It does not mean we will avoid the emotions of grief, i.e. disbelief, anger, depression, acceptance, etc. Deep hurts and trauma can be brought back to the surface by unexpected triggers so we may have to repeatedly ask God for help to forgive.
“Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’” (Romans 12:19) It is not our place to retaliate, get even, get revenge or hit back. To paraphrase the start of the header passage, Jesus said ‘I say to you, are you ready for this truth!’ Are we? Let’s take the high road!
Lord God, help and bless those that hurt me and help me to trust in you to take care of us all. Help me to continually forgive others as you continually forgive me and comfort me when hurts return.
Study by Irene Tibbenham
Worldwide Church of God Norwich
New Hope Christian Centre
Local Congregational Contact:
Phone: 01508 498165
Mobile: 07931 580409