Recently, we have been exploring Corinthians and what Paul has to say about love, conflict, being an expert and other things that focus on our life together as Christians – and how we relate to our world in general. I have been reflecting on his words, especially regarding the issue of injustice – particularly personal injustice, where I feel I haven’t been treated well or understood. I have also been really confronted this week with the Bible reading where Jesus not only says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, he also tells us to turn the other cheek.
I’m not sure how you read this, but it is hard to know how to do any of this without being a doormat! Yet Paul exhorts us to not bring a lawsuit against each other. He tells us to work things out because of the new life we have, because we are different – for if we behave just like everyone else, what’s the point? Where does God show up in our lives, if not with each other?
So, we are stuck with this problem of being valuable individuals, made in God’s image, deserving of treatment in the way of love, yet we are called to deal with personal injustice differently from how we might initially want to. I’m not sure about you, but when I feel I have been treated badly, the last thing I want to do is turn the other cheek. I can certainly feel resentful, unhappy and angry. I can mull over how I didn’t deserve what happened, and what should happen to that person for doing what they did. But, the problem with this is that if you try to resolve a problem you have with someone else, coming from that place, it almost always turns into a flaming wreck.
So, what do we do? Well, I heard a particularly famous person say this the other day: “You have to protect yourself from the predators without letting your heart go dark.” This was their comment after revealing that a new lawsuit is brought against them every second week and that the vast majority of them are not valid. It isn’t often that I can say there is wisdom spoken from Hollywood but I think there is something pretty key here.
Our hearts are where our ability to stay open and loving comes from. Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world and we, as Christians, are not immune to it. We hurt each other and we do things that aren’t fair or just. Turning the other cheek isn’t about being abused and just letting it happen – turning the other cheek is seeing that the other person is broken and sinful just like we all are. It is about keeping our hearts open and not letting what has happened twist our hearts to damn that person. Praying for someone isn’t about them, it is about us and our hearts. Jesus overcame Sin with sacrifice and, really, this is what he is asking us to do. It is common sense that giving someone everything they want can be the least loving thing we can do for them, and we are called to love, not enable.
As Stewart said a few weeks ago, love in Corinthians is a love that calls out, that stands strong and that makes sacrifices.