“The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood: but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them” (Proverbs 12:6). This is a sobering scripture, but aligns with many others. In the midst of men who spoke wickedly about him and who wanted to put him to death, Paul prayed that the love of the Philippians would “abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Rather than focusing on the mischief and evil of his persecutors, he focused on those for whom he was giving his life. Essentially, Paul “turned the other cheek.
In essence, the Bible teaches that we are to love people unconditionally, as Christ commanded, but that we are not to be naive. Christ told His disciples to be “wise as serpents, but innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We are not to let ourselves be taken advantage of simply for the sake of being taken advantage of. Christ taught us to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39), but when He was struck at His trial, Christ simply stated, “Why did you strike me” (John 18:23)?
There is balance in much of the scripture. Seemingly opposite truths can be true in different situations. For example, sometimes we need to rest in God, and other times we need to work hard to establish His kingdom on the earth. When we rest first in order to work and not the other way around, our labor is through Christ. As 1 John 1:9 states, “God sent his only begotten son into the world that we might LIVE through him.”
The closer we are to God, the more we know which way to lean in difficult situations. During Christ’s trial, He knew that there is a time to show ourselves “shrewd” to the “crooked” (Psalm 18:26), rather than to be vulnerable to them. A modern sage has said, “When you’re around sharks, don’t bleed!”
Every day policemen and soldiers face such decisions. Our founding fathers decided to stand for the right and the good, rather than “turn the other cheek.” They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for the future of our nation. Indeed, many of them “gave it all,” rather than “lay down” for the abuses of King George.
We all know people who have been unmercifully abused, and we know that this is not God’s plan for their lives. Some of us have been through similar situations. Fortunately, “The fear [respect] of the Lord is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13). The more we love God, the more we’ll love people and hate evil – all at the same time! God hates evil and wants us to, as well! He also loves PEOPLE and wants us to, as well!
When I’m not certain what course or what action to take with those who may have hidden or even evil agendas – and I’m rarely uncertain on a course of action in such cases – I simply err on the side of loving people and letting them take advantage of me. God sees and my rewards are forever secure in heaven while the “wicked are like the chaff which the wind drives away” (Psalm 1:4).
Is there a time NOT to turn the other cheek? When is there ever a time to NOT imitate Christ? Walking with the Lord certainly presents us with many win/win situations! ?
He shall know the truth by his reverence for the Lord” (Isaiah 11:3, The Tanakh).