We’re coming off the Independence Day holiday here in the United States. It’s a time of great celebration, family togetherness, cookouts, potato salad, and–of course–fireworks! I’m a big fan of fireworks, but I’m a bit of a pyro. Growing up in the city as children, we didn’t set off a lot of fireworks. And then, growing up on the farm, we lived in a county where you can’t shoot fireworks at all. So we’d go to friends’ houses where we could.
But something I noticed a lot this year was the comments on Facebook and other social media about people shooting fireworks off at all hours before, during, and after the holiday. As you can imagine, most folks were pretty upset about it. Their dogs bark. Their kids cry. Etc.
So wouldn’t it make sense to keep track of which neighbors are doing it? That way, next year, when they’re all done shooting off fireworks and scaring people half to death, you can set off your own fireworks and wake them up in the middle of the night? Not immediate enough for you? Okay, instead, wait a few weeks and then go ring their doorbell at 3 a.m. That should teach them to wake you up with their fireworks.
I mean, it’s only fair, right?
Today’s verses are Matthew 5:38-42.
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.”
Of course, you know I’m joking. If you do that to your neighbors and tell them it was my idea, I’ll point them to the rest of this post, which says very clearly that repaying evil for evil is never a good idea.
This is Jesus talking in the passage above, and He’s teaching people how to respond when they’re wronged. Because it’s our first reaction to respond to being hurt by hurting the offender. That’s the natural reaction. But we aren’t called to a natural life. We are called to a supernatural life.
Jesus advocated turning the other cheek. This doesn’t mean He was weak–quite the opposite. But in personal relationships, you were never to pay someone back because they hurt you. Jesus believed in giving mercy more than receiving it.
Mercy is great as long as we’re the ones getting it, right? We love receiving mercy. It makes us feel good, all warm and fuzzy inside. Oh, but turn the tables, and mercy is a lot harder to give out than it is to accept. We don’t do so well when we have the choice to dole it or pour salt on the wound.
People are going to hurt you. They’re going to offend you. Heck, they’re going to wake you up at 3 a.m. because they’re shooting off fireworks. But do you know what you’re supposed to do? Go out there and make sure they have enough matches. Offer them a glass of water or something.
Makes you made, right? Makes me mad just thinking about it. Doing something thoughtful for people who are completely inconsiderate? That’s foolish. They’ll walk all over me. They’ll set off fireworks everyday if I let them think it’s okay with me.
I really think we underestimate the power of mercy and kindness in people’s lives. And the thing we forget about this principle is that it’s not the world’s rules. It’s Jesus’ idea. This is what He teaches. To offer mercy and kindness to people who have hurt you. Take the risk that they’ll take advantage of you, and don’t be surprised if they do. Because they probably will. But don’t worry about it. Let God sort it out. You just be the person you’re supposed to be, and do what Jesus did–be more willing to give mercy than receive it.
It’s not easy, but Jesus never said following Him would be.