Peacemakers

Peacemaker: A person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries. —Lexico.com
I made an important discovery this past Friday. Since mid-June, I’ve been taking a prescription medication to get rid of toenail fungus. I have been taking this Rx one tablet a week (every Friday), and the prescription is for 36 weeks.

Over the summer I began to notice that I was irritable a lot which is not normal for me, although I didn’t let it show when I was out and about doing the normal things I do (shopping, running errands, etc.). I also acquired a feeling of tiredness that was getting worse as the weeks went by, and my face and mouth felt dry all the time, too.  None of these symptoms are normal for me as I tend to be a perky and optimistic type person with a fair amount of energy, and I’m in good health with normal (not dry) skin.

As I progressed through Week #14 on the medication (taken on September 11th), the irritation and tiredness was just getting to be too much. At first I thought it might be caused from a pandemic-induced malaise, as in “Will this pandemic ever end?” Adding to the pandemic, I also experienced a failed attempt (twice) at acquiring an apartment in a senior apartment complex–the first time in May, and then again in July after I had waited for over two months for it to open up the second time.

In trying to secure an apartment at that senior apartment complex where I had been offered an apartment the first time in May, the day before I was scheduled to move into that apartment I was informed that their compliance department determined my income did not qualify me to rent that particular apartment after all. I was blown away that they waited until the day before I was scheduled to move into it to inform me that I didn’t qualify for it. Two weeks later I was told that I did qualify to rent a different apartment there at a higher rent price, but I’d have to wait two months before it would be available for me to rent in July. That, too, fell through.

So I’m still in the process of looking for an affordable senior apartment, and I have been looking for an affordable senior apartment for as long as it takes to conceive a child, give birth, and then watch that child grow to be old enough to attend kindergarten and progress to 1st grade. That’s a very long time.

Irritability and tiredness–it would be perfectly understandable to feel that way given what I’ve mentioned above; however, even in the worst of times I tend to be the perky type, almost always in a good mood, with lots of energy and a “never give up” attitude.

On Week #15 of taking my Rx, I dutifully got my tablet out to take on Friday, September 18th, when a thought occurred to me that it just might be this prescription medication I’ve been taking for the past 14 weeks that is causing my irritability, tiredness, and dry skin and mouth. Since I only take it once a week, I didn’t give it any thought that it might be this prescription medicine that was causing my unexplainable symptoms. However, before I swallowed another tablet, I decided to look up the side effects online, and guess what?

Yes, you guessed it–mood swings, irritability, excessive tiredness and dry skin/mouth are listed among the much longer list of possible side effects. Well, I decided right then and there that tablet #15 was not going down my throat (toenail fungus or not).

It took ten days from the time I took my last tablet on 9/11 for the drug to get out of my system (that was yesterday), and, just as if a dark, heavy cloud had been lifted off of me, I realized yesterday afternoon I was back to my perky, optimistic, always in a good mood (well, mostly), energetic self.

YAY!!!

The lesson learned? It might not be the pandemic or bad circumstances that are causing irritability, bad moods, or tiredness. It could also be caused by a prescription medication.

I mention this for one very good reason. Being a Christian, we are often encouraged to keep a “stiff upper lip” and be “cheerful” even in the worst of situations. While that is not bad advice, it is often like something Greg Laurie, Senior Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, states in an article published on September 17, 2020, titled, What the Bible Says About Self-Defense and Justice,” regarding the Sermon on the Mount. He states:

In the Sermon on the Mount, you will find some of the hardest statements Jesus ever made. When I say hard, I mean difficult to put into practice—at least for me!…

…Turning the other cheek. Going the extra mile. Loving your enemies. These are high standards! (Quote source here.)

If these are hard things to do under normal circumstances, imagine taking a prescription medication that actually makes it even worse! Fortunately, for something like toenail fungus, it is not life threatening for me to quit taking the medication that was causing my irritability, moodiness, tiredness, dry skin and who knows what else it might have been causing. So please don’t read into what I am saying about taking prescription medications as any kind of advice to stop taking them. Consult your doctor first before you quit taking any prescription medications.

What I am saying is that in my case for several weeks I wondered why I was feeling the way I was feeling as it was absolutely not normal, and I wondered if I was doing something wrong that was causing me to feel this way physically, and out-of-sync spiritually, too. However, I was doing nothing different then I had been doing before I started feeling irritable, grouchy, and wretchedly physically tired after I started taking the Rx. I was even starting to feel hopeless, and if you knew me, you would know I just don’t “go there”. Discovering that the Rx was causing it was like a lightbulb moment.

However, now that I have discovered why I felt the way I did all summer and came up with the cure for it (to stop taking the Rx), it brings me back to the article I mentioned above by Greg Laurie titled, What the Bible Says About Self-Defense and Justice.”

We do live in interesting times especially in this year of 2020, and we still have six weeks to go before the Presidential election takes place with the division between the two parties and in the public square (which has already been red hot) getting hotter the closer it gets to Election Day (November 3, 2020).

Greg Laurie opens his article, What the Bible Says About Self-Defense and Justice,” with this paragraph:

Justice is something everyone is talking about these days, and rightly so. Social justice, racial justice, systemic justice—these have all been terms used in public discourse. And they do raise an important question for the Christian: How do we create a society that is truly just? Some point to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount as guidelines for how we should govern society, but is that what Jesus intended when He spoke them? (Quote source here.)

As Laurie states in the first quote I quoted from his article, he mentions how difficult it is to put into practice what Jesus stated in his Sermon on the Mount–things like “turning the other cheek,” “going the extra mile,” and “loving your enemies”–that are high standards to meet. In his article he has several sections titled, “Individuals vs. Governments,” “Governing Authorities,” and “Turn the Other Cheek.” In the section titled “Individuals vs. Governments,” Laurie states:

…The Sermon on the Mount was not given as a set of principles by which we govern our society. They are principles for individual Christians to be a light and example to the world.

If somebody means harm toward another, a police officer is not supposed to “turn the other cheek.” If we as a nation are attacked by a foreign power who wants to destroy us, we are not supposed to “go the extra mile.” There is a place for self-defense. There is a place for standing your ground. There is a place for protecting your citizens.

The biblical teaching of the Sermon on the Mount was given by Jesus for believers to live by—not for governments to govern by. The role of an individual is to practice mercy while the role of a government is to practice justice.

If you want to know how a society should be governed, look at Exodus 21. It is referenced by Jesus when he says. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” Exodus 21 continues: “hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” This was the Hebrew civic justice system. Its purpose, according to Deuteronomy 19:20, was so that “the rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you” (NASB).

Justice under this arrangement was never carried out by the victim, but by the legal system. It was a merciful law because it limited judgment, matching the punishment to the offense. (Quote source here.)

Laurie goes into more detail in the section titled, “Governing Authorities.” In this section he explains how God has established both governments and the military, and how God has even established the use of force when necessary, and he cites Romans 13 (source here).  He also cites 2 Timothy 2:3-4 stating that the Bible uses a soldier as a model of what a Christian ought to be and how we should follow Jesus. At the end of this section he states:

It’s important that we have a correct understanding of these things. God has established human government to administer justice. It is acceptable for Christians to defend themselves and to exercise their rights. Even the apostle Paul, when he was falsely charged and beaten, exercised his rights as a Roman citizen. The Bible is not saying that the Christian is supposed to be some kind of a doormat. (Quote source here.)

In the last section of his article titled, “Turn the Other Cheek,” Laurie states:

…There are times, for the sake of the kingdom and for the salvation of a soul, we should take the hit. We are to turn the other cheek. We should go the extra mile. The idea is to do what you can to reach a person with the gospel.

Paul said in Romans 12:19, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (NKJV).

Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. This is not so much about someone just coming up and punching you in the face. It is more the idea of an insult that is offered. Back in these days to be slapped in the face was a deliberate insult—a demeaning and contemptuous act.

Our modern equivalent would maybe be to spit in someone’s face. It doesn’t physically hurt, but it is insulting and angering. It could be using certain words or gestures. When it happens, you want to do it back, or do something even worse. Jesus is telling you not to retaliate.

Is this easy advice to live by? Absolutely not. It is very hard. But even if you struggle with it, the objective is to try to win others to Christ. Jesus is saying, “Go further than they ask. Don’t just give them your tunic. Give them your cloak. Go the extra mile.”

Back in those days the Roman soldier had the right to ask any citizen to carry his armor for a Roman mile. Jesus says, “You know what? If they ask you to carry their armor, take it for the Roman mile and then go for an extra mile. So you do it for the glory of God.”

Go further than that which is required. Do it for the sake of the gospel. Do it to win the hearing of the person that you are trying to reach. Try to turn your enemies into friends. Try to win them over. It blows people’s minds when they see a Christian willing to forgive. A Christian willing to turn the other cheek. A Christian willing to go the extra mile. (Quote source here.)

In a devotion published on February 24, 1994, in Our Daily Bread, titled, A Misunderstood Command,” by Herbert Vander Lugt (who died in 2006), who served as Senior Research Editor for Our Daily Bread Ministries and had been with the ministry since 1966, he wrote:

“Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
Matthew 5:39

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 5:38-48

Geoffrey, a dedicated believer, took seriously our Lord’s command about turning the other cheek, yet he misunderstood the meaning of what Christ taught. When a man struck him, for example, he turned the other side of his face to his assailant and allowed him to hit it again. He said, “I have now fulfilled the Lord’s command.” Then he proceeded to pound his foe into submission. That’s quite obviously not what Jesus had in mind.

The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy also misinterpreted this command. He said that we should be completely nonresistant when people steal from us or hurt us. His theory was that the wicked would soon be so ashamed that they would correct their ways. But his logic was wrong. Society doesn’t operate that way. Without the restraining force of the police, the wicked would completely overpower decent, law-abiding citizens.

What then did Jesus mean when He told us that we should turn the other cheek? He was saying we should not let the desire to get even dominate our lives. Instead, we should be governed by the principles of giving and forgiving. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, we can do exactly what Jesus commanded. (Quote source here.)

In answer to the question, What did Jesus mean when He instructed us to turn the other cheek?”, GotQuestions give this answer:

…Much of the material surrounding Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek [see Sermon on the Mount] complements the nature of His coming, which was characterized by mercy, sacrificial love, and longsuffering toward sinners. At the same time, Jesus affirms the “last is first” principle upon which the kingdom of God is based. For instance, He tells us to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us (Matthew 5:41) and to love and pray for our enemies instead of holding enmity against them (verse 44). In summary, Jesus is saying we need to be pure inside and out and as accommodating as possible for the sake of a lost world.

A word about the “slap” that Jesus says we should endure. Jesus here speaks of personal slights of any kind. The slap (or the “smiting,” as the KJV has it) does not have to involve literal, physical violence. Even in our day, a “slap in the face” is a metaphor for an unexpected insult or offense. Did someone insult you? Let him, Jesus says. Are you shocked and offended? Don’t be. And don’t return insult for insult. Turn the other cheek.

Matthew Henry’s comment on this verse is helpful: “Suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord’s keeping. And the sum of all is, that Christians must avoid disputing and striving. If any say, Flesh and blood cannot pass by such an affront, let them remember, that flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and those who act upon right principles will have most peace and comfort” (Concise Commentary, entry for Matthew 5:38).

Turning the other cheek does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in danger. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek is simply a command to forgo retaliation for personal offenses. He was not setting government foreign policy, and He was not throwing out the judicial system. Crimes can still be prosecuted, and wars can still be waged, but the follower of Christ need not defend his personal “rights” or avenge his honor…. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with Paul’s words from Romans 12:18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you…

Live at peace. . .

With . . .

Everyone . . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

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Turning the Other Cheek

The last blog post I published on my other blog two weeks ago titled, Demonstrating Grace,” was on the topic of extending grace instead of dispensing justice even when justice would have been justified. I’ve thought a lot about that topic since I wrote that last blog post, and I was given another opportunity to “turn the other cheek” again a few days ago.

After that second opportunity occurred so soon after the first, I humorously emailed a friend stating that 2020 has already given me two opportunities to “turn the other cheek,” and I had now run out of cheeks to turn and February has only just begun. The subject of forgiveness can get pretty bogged down as we live in a fast paced society today where insults are spewed all over social media at break neck speed, and a general lack of hospitality and civility has infected even the most seemingly innocuous interactions we have with others.

For instance, doesn’t it just rankle you when someone sweetly says, “Bless you,” but you know they don’t really mean it, and it’s given as an insult with a nice smile cover-up? Seems our society runs on short fuses most of the time today. No wonder I feel like I’ve run out of cheeks to turn in such a short period of time since 2020 burst upon us just over a scant month ago. All of those insults can wear a person down.

Apparently, doing good isn’t fashionable today. No gold stars or brownie points are given out for doing good or turning the other cheek. Laughter and insults are often the response, and they are often disguised as “nicey-nice” expressions, but they don’t hide the hate. Isn’t it wonderful to live in a society where we can so freely express our hate for each other on a regular basis by disguising it by using nice words and a fake smile?

Social media has also had a big part in programming us in that direction whether spewing hate out in the open and in your face, or hiding it behind “nicey-nice” words and smiles that mean nothing. Slinging mud while disguising it in pretty words and an insincere smile might make it seem not as bad as actually spewing the “F” word, but it all means the same thing.

It was Jesus who said we should turn the other cheek and not return evil for evil. So what exactly did he mean by turning the other cheek? GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer:

In Matthew 5:38–39, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” The concept of “turning the other cheek” is a difficult one for us to grasp. Allowing a second slap after being slapped once does not come naturally.

In the section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which He commands us to turn the other cheek, He addresses the need for true transformation, versus mere rule-keeping. It’s not enough to obey the letter of the law; we must conform to the spirit of the law as well.

Much of the material surrounding Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek complements the nature of His coming, which was characterized by mercy, sacrificial love, and long suffering toward sinners. At the same time, Jesus affirms the “last is first” principle upon which the kingdom of God is based. For instance, He tells us to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us (Matthew 5:41) and to love and pray for our enemies instead of holding enmity against them (verse 44). In summary, Jesus is saying we need to be pure inside and out and as accommodating as possible for the sake of a lost world.

A word about the “slap” that Jesus says we should endure. Jesus here speaks of personal slights of any kind. The slap (or the “smiting,” as the KJV has it) does not have to involve literal, physical violence. Even in our day, a “slap in the face” is a metaphor for an unexpected insult or offense. Did someone insult you? Let him, Jesus says. Are you shocked and offended? Don’t be. And don’t return insult for insult. Turn the other cheek.

Matthew Henry’s comment on this verse is helpful: “Suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord’s keeping. And the sum of all is, that Christians must avoid disputing and striving. If any say, Flesh and blood cannot pass by such an affront, let them remember, that flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and those who act upon right principles will have most peace and comfort” (Concise Commentary, entry for Matthew 5:38).

Turning the other cheek does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in danger. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek is simply a command to forgo retaliation for personal offenses. He was not setting government foreign policy, and He was not throwing out the judicial system. Crimes can still be prosecuted, and wars can still be waged, but the follower of Christ need not defend his personal “rights” or avenge his honor.

There was a time in history when a man would feel compelled to protect his honor against one who slandered him or otherwise besmirched his character. The offended party would challenge the offender to a duel. Swords, firearms, or other weapons were chosen, and the two enemies would face off. In most cases, senseless bloodshed ensued. Samuel Johnson wrote in favor of the practice of dueling: “A man may shoot the man who invades his character, as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house.” The problem is that “invasions of character” are exactly what Jesus told us to tolerate in Matthew 5:38. Turning the other cheek would have been a better option than dueling, and it would have saved lives.

Retaliation is what most people expect and how worldly people act. Turning the other cheek requires help from on high. Responding to hatred with love and ignoring personal slights display the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and may afford the chance to share the gospel.

Jesus was, of course, the perfect example of turning the other cheek because He was silent before His accusers and did not call down revenge from heaven on those who crucified Him. Instead, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). (Quote source here.)

In an article published on January 29, 2018, titled, Does ‘Turn the Other Cheek’ Mean ‘Get Walked All Over’?” by Chris Nye, pastor of leadership development at Awakening Church in the Silicon Valley and the author of “Distant God,” he writes:

I have sometimes heard well-meaning Christians counsel those going through difficult circumstances that “this is your cross to bear” or “Jesus told us we would suffer” or “you’ve got to deny yourself.” Some cite Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 5:39 as a proper response to the people in our lives who have hurt us. Sometimes these well-meaning people tell us to stick around in unhealthy relationships because isn’t that what Christ would do? He was crucified, after all, and aren’t we supposed to follow in his steps?

But does turning the other cheek and denying ourselves really mean we should endure unhealthy relationships and circumstances, no matter what? Should we stick around in relationships we sense are damaging us because we need to “deny ourselves”?

Here are four observations that might help as we consider such questions.

1. There is a difference between laying your life down and someone taking it.

Scripture instructs us to “lay down our lives” for Christ’s sake and to take up our cross (1 John 3:16Matt. 16:24). But notice the active agent in that sentence: you. There is a difference between voluntarily laying down your life and someone taking your life from you. Jesus said he laid down his life so that he “may take it up again.” He went on: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).

There were many times Jesus could have allowed his life to be taken, but he escaped because “his time had not come yet” (John 7:30, 44; 10:39). We need not pity Jesus for his death—he was accomplishing his mission, on his terms. And we need not pity ourselves, out of a false martyrdom complex, when we allow dangerous or unhealthy people to dictate our lives. We must be certain that we, like Jesus, are laying our lives down on our own accord and not having them taken from us by life-sucking individuals.

2. We are to pick up our cross, but not every cross.

When Jesus teaches us to daily pick up our cross, he uses the possessive: it’s our cross to bear (Luke 9:23). What is this cross? It will likely be different for everyone, but you’ll know when it’s yours. We cannot carry every cross and burden we see in our sights. As Paul tells the Galatians, “For each will have to bear his own load” (Gal. 6:5). But wait, doesn’t Paul also say in that same passage to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2)? Which is it? Should we bear our own burdens or others’ burdens? Yes. Both.

We are called to discernment—to wisely assess if such burdens are ours to carry. Can we handle it? Is this our battle to fight? Am I getting involved to show love or to prove a point? Am I getting involved to serve another or to serve myself?

3. Jesus set limits and boundaries on his ministry.

There were so many people Jesus disappointed; so many in the back of crowds who never got close enough to touch the hem of his garment. One interaction stands out: a young man asks Jesus to settle a legal dispute between him and his brother. Jesus responds: “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14). It’s a good question. Jesus understood when he was being asked to do things outside of the focus of his ministry. He knew his calling, he knew his ministry, and he protected these things while remaining remarkably compassionate.

4. You are just one part of the body.

In certain kinds of churches, two or three people shoulder all the burdens. It’s common for one pastor to do most of the weddings, funerals, and hospital visits. But I do not see any evidence in the New Testament to support this kind of organizational structure. Paul speaks of the “body of Christ,” of which all of us are differing “members.” When someone carries a backpack or lifts something up, the weight is distributed to many different places on the body. While one area will bear the most (you can hear your dad saying, “Lift with your legs, son!”), your whole body feels the pressure. Likewise, you should entrust your burdens to the body of your church. You’re not the only one who can visit a hospital, offer relational counsel, or pray for the hurting.

Again, Jesus set limits on his ministry. We forget all the people he passed by, all the sick who left unhealed simply because he couldn’t get to them. We forget how he evaded crowds and escaped the masses. We forget that while many stones were thrown at him, he dodged them all so that he might pick up his cross.

Jesus was not walked all over, and no one took his life. If you are to imitate him and become like him, no one should take yours.

Disciples of Jesus would be wise to follow him specifically in this area by setting boundaries. You don’t have to text that person back right away. You can answer your emails during an allotted time. The tasks ahead will always be infinite, but you are finite. Especially for those of us in full-time ministry, we must learn the art of wise dismissal, of letting people down, and saying “no” so that we might say “yes” to the fullness of life in Christ Jesus. (Quote source here.)

Jesus made it clear in Matthew 5:38-39 that we are not to resist an evil person, and that we are to turn the other cheek. So what is the best way to not resist an evil person? Paul stated in Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In a brief article titled, Explain ‘Do Not Be Overcome with Evil, But Overcome Evil with Good’,” by Pat Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network; host of The 700 Club, and CEO of Regent University, he writes:

There is only one way that evil can overcome a Christian, and that is if the Christian returns evil for evil. If someone insults you and snarls at you, you are not overcome. You are overcome if you begin to snarl right back. Then the unpleasant person has become your role model. You are copying evil and evil is overcoming you. If someone hates you and you hate him back, then evil is getting the victory. If someone strikes you and you strike back, then you have become like the evil one.

The Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). If someone reviles you, you are to smile back and say, “God bless you.” The person will not know how to react to that, and you have overcome him. You have won. That person has not changed you, but you have gone on the offensive with the most powerful weapon in the world–love! If someone strikes you on the cheek, Jesus said you should turn the other cheek (see Matthew 5:39Luke 6:29). And that will leave your adversary totally confused! And then on top of that you should say, “I love you.”

If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles. If someone takes your coat, give him your shirt as well (see Matthew 5:40-41). Do so graciously, cheerfully, even assertively. God has given you the spiritual weapons to discern who your enemies are and then to conquer them by making them your friends. (Of course, as long as there are vicious criminals and international tyrants in the world, there must be a system of restraint through local or international police. In Romans 13, police and legitimate armies are considered by the apostle Paul as “ministers of God” to bring vengeance on lawbreakers.) (Quote source  here.)

Turning the other cheek may not be a popular response in our culture today, but it is the only right response according to Jesus. And how do we do that? We do it by…

Overcoming evil . . .

With . . .

Good . . . .

YouTube Video: “Forgiveness” by TobyMac ft. Lacrae:

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