"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.'" Matthew 5:38 (MSG)
Jack tossed the papers on my desk. His eyebrows knit into a straight line as he glared at me.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Next time you want to change anything, ask me first," he grunted, turning on his heels.
One small change. Wasn't that what I was paid to do? It's not that I hadn't been warned. One co-worker cautioned me, "He's personally responsible for two different people leaving the firm."
As the weeks went by, I grew to resent Jack, although my anger went against what I believed in: turning the other cheek and loving my enemies.
However, many days I felt justified. Jack had been given plenty of chances to be kind, yet inevitably he slapped a verbal insult on any cheek I turned his way.
Other days I felt convicted, and prayed about my indignant feelings toward Jack. But to be honest, I wanted to put him in his place, not love him.
I knew I had to give him what he deserved. I went into his office to tell him how I felt.
When I opened the door, Jack glanced up.
"What?" he said abruptly.
God help me, I prayed.
"Jack, I've never had anyone speak to me the way you do. As a professional, it's wrong. And it's wrong for me to allow it to continue," I said.
You see, even though I wanted to give Jack an "eye for an eye" to treat him the way he treated others, I couldn't. Because earlier the Lord had shown me something Jesus taught on in Matthew 5:38.
Under the Law, punishment was to match the crime. But a group of men named the Pharisees had taken that specific rule and made it literal. If a person stole a loaf of bread, even if they were starving, the punishment no longer matched the crime—they cut off the hand of the thief.
Rather than an eye for an eye, Jesus said that when we meet someone who is evil (in this case that word can mean a person who is stingy, a bad friend, one who exerts authority over you in the wrong manner, or someone with wrong motives) and they hit us on our right cheek, rather than meet violence with violence, we do the opposite.
We meet a stingy person with generosity.
We respond to a person who is overbearing with patience.
This was not only contrary to the Pharisee's interpretation of the Law, but a peaceful response founded in love that introduced self-control and gentleness into an offense.
"Jack, I want to make you a promise. I will treat you with respect and kindness. You deserve that. Because that's what friends do." I slipped out of the chair and closed the door behind me.
One year later, I discovered I had breast cancer. I was 32, the mother of three beautiful young children, and scared. Even after surgery, chemo, and radiation, the diagnosis was grim.
People didn't know what to say. They were afraid for me. There were days that the news was so grim that I asked God for just one word of hope.
On the last day in the hospital, the door darkened and Jack stood awkwardly on the threshold. He walked over to my bed and, without a word, placed a bundle beside me. Inside were several bulbs.
"Tulips." He cleared his throat. "If you plant them when you get home, they'll come up next spring." He shuffled his feet. "I just wanted you to know that I think you'll be there to see them when they come up."
His words were just what I needed to hear. They gave me hope.
I watched those tulips push through the soil that next spring, and the next. In fact, last month I celebrated 21 years of survival.
In a moment, years ago, when I prayed for just the right word and actions, a man with very few words said and did all the right things.
And isn't that just what friends do?
Dear Lord, thank You that You are a friend to me, even on those days that I am gruff. You are patient. You are kind. Help me to be more like You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond: Turning your cheek simply means that you meet an unmerciful action with mercy or peace.
Describe one way you can respond differently.
Power Verses: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (NIV)
© 2012 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.
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