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Can We Really Turn The Other Cheek?

We have just heard Jesus say in the Gospel taken from Matthew 5: 38-48, ‘He causes his rain to fall on the honest and dishonest alike.’

Although this was not in the mind of Jesus, it prompts me to acknowledge and give thanks that the rain has come to Auckland at least. I am not sure if it has rained where you live. Soon I hope if you have been experiencing drought conditions.

Jesus continues to teach us from his great Sermon on the Mount.

We are very familiar with some of the key phrases- turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you.

We can be tempted into thinking they are just ideals and hyperbole impossible to achieve. No one can honestly act like this in the face of violence and abuse.

However, in our heart of hearts we know Christ is speaking with authority and wisdom. Vengeance and retribution continue the cycle of violence and do not get us anywhere.

The various examples of passive resistance and non-violent protest including the events of Parihaka in Taranaki during the land wars in the 1800’s continue to hold the moral high ground.

Jesus himself when he was struck on his face during his trial before Pilate did not turn the other cheek, but he did not lash out in violence either but challenged firmly why he was struck. He said ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me? He stood his ground and maintained his dignity.

Perpetrators of violence need to face consequences and to hear the impact of what they have caused but allowing anger and bitterness towards them to overwhelm us continues to give them the upper hand.

People who express forgiveness towards those who have wronged them give incredible witness to the teachings of Christ. How many martyrs in imitation of Jesus have said with their last breath, ‘Do not hold this sin against them! You no doubt have examples from your own experience. It takes a lot to open ourselves and trust again someone who has harmed us. We tend to be very cautious. We admire people who overcome the odds and maintain their integrity.

One of the phrases from tonight’s Gospel, ‘Give to anyone who asks……. reveals to us the generosity of God. Christ lived a life of absolute self-giving. He is not wanting us to do something he himself was not prepared to do. Because God is so generous, we can ask for the gift of forgiveness, we can ask that we let go of the resentment we feel towards those who have hurt us, we can ask for the strength to go that extra mile with someone who is trying our patience or simply needs our presence and commitment. In asking and believing that our attitude can change is already a movement towards Christ and not a turning in on ourselves.

St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians reminds us that we are Temples of the Spirit and that we belong to Christ. We are called to treat one another with reverence.

I was inspired to write this song after hearing about a man prepared to go the extra mile for his wife under what had been trying circumstances for many years.

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