You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
You may appear to be a Christian. You may give lip service to all the right things, but what lurks underneath the surface of that facade? Is it a heart that is truly in tune with God or a heart that has been transformed by this world? The best revealer of what is really in your heart is how you respond when you are offended by other people.
In Romans 12, Paul talked about the practical aspects of righteousness. When you are in a right relationship with God, how should it impact your daily life? In verses 1 and 2, Paul said we ought not to be conformed to this world but transformed. Then, in verses 9 to 13, Paul explained that if your heart has truly been transformed by God, then that transformation will express itself in your love for other people. You will put people before yourself, you will treat people as you want to be treated, and you will honor other people. Now, it would have been easy if Paul had simply stopped at verse 13 and gone on to Romans 13, where he talked about how to respond to government. But Paul did not stop with verse 13. He went on to talk about how to respond to our enemies.
It is one thing to honor those who love you. That is pretty easy to do. But how do you respond to those who hate you, those who curse you, and those who persecute you? That is what Paul dealt with in Romans 12:14-21. Those of us who grew up going to Sunday school know that we are supposed to bless people who curse us. In fact, in Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
Contrast Jesus’ words to the words of the late Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who has been quoted as saying, “The difference between Christianity and Communism is great. When someone strikes you on the face, you turn the other cheek. If you strike me on the face, I’ll hit you so hard your head will fall off.” We may wince at that, but that is the philosophy of our world and our culture as well. We dress it up. We couch it in cute phrases like, “Don’t get mad; get even.” But the philosophy is the same: “Don’t let anybody run over you. Stand up for your rights. Mark your boundaries. Don’t let anybody get the best of you.”
Paul said if you are a Christian, then you are going to have a radically different response to wrongdoing than the rest of the world does.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Living With Your Enemy” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.