Turning the other cheek sounds great and all, but in real life, I need to know what that looks like and what to do when constantly being slapped in the face by the same individual. I believe my words were something like, “What do you offer up when you’ve already had both cheeks, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, arms, legs, body, feet slapped many times over?”
Let’s Be Real Here
Am I the only one who struggles with wanting to retaliate when someone blatantly hurts me, most especially when it’s a constant thing? As much as I want to be the “good Christian woman”, I have a terrible time with the follow through part of that. You know, the turning-the-other-cheek-and-offering-help-and-love-to-the-offender part. Why is that so difficult for me?
So here I am, yet another sleepless night, and I have a million things racing through my brain. The incident that provoked this question being one of them. After 3 hours of wide eyes, I decided to have some alone time with my Daddy God. Honestly, I had nothing specific in mind as far as what scripture to read, or if I would even read it, and I had no idea what I was going to pray. The funny thing is, God always knows what we need to hear, and he lead me to a story I’ve known forever but had not heard it the way I heard it from him tonight . . . or this morning – whatever it now is.
In Genesis 37 and Genesis 50, my answer was so clearly laid out. In short:
Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him. They plotted to kill him, which changed to them deciding to throw him in a cistern to die (so they weren’t technically the ones killing him), but then they decided to sell him as a slave to some passersby, and they sold him pretty cheap, too. They came back and let their dad believe Joseph was killed by a wild animal.
Those passersby who purchased Joseph, sold him to someone else. It turns out, the one who purchased him was the captain of the guard of Pharaoh. Through many wrongs being done to him, many slaps in the face, Joseph never complained about his circumstances. He never fought back. He didn’t blame his circumstances on his brothers when he very easily could have harbored hate and anger.
Instead, what we see from Joseph is that he took every opportunity to listen to God and obey whatever he told him, and he ended up being Pharaoh’s right hand man, so to speak. God blessed him in ways he couldn’t have even imagined had his circumstances been different.
Fast forward many years, and the brothers had to depend on Joseph for provision during a famine. He gave graciously to them rather than leaving them to die just as they had intended to do for him.
The part that hit me, though, was after his father died, and his brothers came back asking to be forgiven. Let me pause from the story to be completely up front with you. I am human, and more times than I would like to admit, my flesh wins in the battle between it and my Spirit. I look at my particular situation, and I hear the “I’m sorrys” from this person, but I don’t believe them, and I may or may not say they are forgiven, but even if I say “I forgive,” that anger is still there depending on what the action was. In Joseph’s situation, it would be very difficult not to hold on to that hurt and anger.
That’s not what he did, though. Verses 19-21 say:
Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives . . .” (NIV)
The scripture goes on to say – get ready for this one – . . . And he spoke kindly to them.
OUCH. Joseph not only provided for them when they were in need, but he forgave them for selling him as a slave, AND he did it all while speaking KINDLY to them.
Wow. I’ve failed. I’ve not only failed, but I’ve failed over and over again.
This is what the scripture in Matthew means. Someone slaps you on your left cheek, so you offer up your right. You don’t seek revenge. You love, and you offer help to them even if it’s the shirt off your back. This story of Joseph tells us exactly what that looks like in real life. It tells us that God can use any situation to save others, and it tells us that he will protect us in all situations if we just allow him to. Are we really allowing him to protect us and utilize us if we are angry and yelling and constantly thinking about yet another way we were wronged by the same person?
How are we to reach people if that’s where we stay? How can we focus on others if we are constantly fighting that same battle with that same person – or any battle to defend ourselves against those who have wronged us, for that matter?
I don’t know if the story of Joseph speaks to you in the way it spoke to me, but I hope this speaks to someone out there who might feel like they’ve been kicked down too many times and are at a loss for how to defend themselves. Our society today so quickly jumps at the opportunity to cause an uproar when they feel they are being wronged. I’m guilty of it. I won’t pretend I’m above that. None of us want to be wronged, and it seems unrealistic to “turn the other cheek.”
Step with me outside of society’s way of thinking, and let’s give it a try. Don’t hang on to it. Don’t talk about it constantly. Don’t let your mind drift back to it throughout the day. And . . . speak kindly each time you speak to that person. Let’s see how life changes for us. I’m ready. How about you?