One of the most misquoted and misunderstood
teachings of Jesus is that of “turning the other
cheek”. People have come to believe that this statement
says that doing so means that that person is weak, malleable, and
therefore quite capable of being walked on.
Sadly it seems that many in Christianity are believing that lie. It seems like more and more are intimidated by our culture. When our dissenters say things against us, or ridicule our morals and creeds, it seems that we just say nothing. Maybe its because we have unconsciously bought into the tolerance myth, and are so afraid to offend someone, we remain silent.
Where does this timid form of Christianity come from? Certainly not from Scripture. There are many examples of people making extremely brave stands against seemingly impossible odds to follow God.
Moses, who had fled the country of his birth, returned to face down a king in order to free his people from over 400 years of slavery. What makes this so amazing is the fact that not only could he gain an audience with Pharaoh more than once, but he had the audacity to flaunt Pharaoh’s own religion into his face again and again.
Because of a stuttering problem, Moses asked God to allow him to bring along his older brother Aaron to act as spokesman. Yet each time the brothers were summoned to court, Moses ended up speaking himself, with Aaron taking more of a supporting role. Moses then went on to lead his people for another 40 years, standing up to the Children of Israel’s enemies and even the Children of Israel themselves. Yet God called Moses one of the meekest man ever created.
Daniel was one of many captured people in King Nebuchadnezzer’s court, groomed to serve the king. Almost from the beginning Daniel and several of his friends quietly, yet emphatically insisted on following Hebrew tradition in dietary and physical health laws in preparation for service to the king. Those insistences led these young men to high positions within the court. Daniel and his friends also faced certain death if they didn’t abide by the king’s religious laws. Yet they stood by their faith, and with only their actions, proved their God to be true in dramatic ways.
One just has to admire Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as they calmly yet firmly stated to their king,
'We are not going to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O King. But even if He doesn’t, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up'
(Dan 3:16-18 NIV)
These boys made it pretty clear, and they sent a precise message:
Our faith in our God is so firm that we are willing to die to prove our belief.
That message went on even further than they imagined. It is quite possible that these three young men figured that soon they would be dead and meeting God face to face; instead God used them to send an even more powerful message. He showed the king who desired divinity just who was really divine, by backing up the words of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
When we come to the New Testament we find the example of Stephen; Stephen continued to praise and worship God, and to state His word even as the stones intended for his death began to fly. Even as this brave man lay dying, He was asking God to forgive his murderers.
Peter, James, Paul and all the other early disciples carried the gospel of Jesus to a world hostile to them. A risen rabbi, who was also God, was hard to swallow for the Jew, and an idea of only one God was hard for the gentile. These men and women had enemies on all sides, yet they went to their deaths, some of them horrible, to continue to share God’s love to all they could.
Jesus himself was strength and gentleness rolled into one. He would teach, firmly, from the word of God, and was not the least bit afraid to knock religious establishment on it's ear. At the same time His compassion astounded all who came into contact with Him. The teaching, including the statement 'turn the other cheek', is about strength. It takes discipline to resist our impulse to retaliate when someone wrongs us; it takes something, often beyond us to forgive, and to show mercy and kindness to those who only wish to harm us.
Jesus goes on to tell us to pray for our enemies, to show kindness to our persecutors. He teaches us to forgive again and again. He tells us that we are blessed when we are persecuted and falsely accused. He tells us that these things will happen, especially when we are speaking on His account. (Matthew 5:38-48 NIV)
Jesus also tells us that when we face adversity because of our faith, that He will be right there with us. He will give us the strength to withstand anything that comes against us. Even if it means our death, we will not be alone, and our heavenly reward will just come that much quicker (Matt 10:17-31 NIV)
So what makes us - the modern Christian - so timid? Why do our critics and religious adversaries often intimidate us? There are several possible reasons for this:
The first is that we allow intimidation to take place. We can’t be intimidated unless we give permission, and somehow we have allowed that to take place.
Second, I think we are extremely uneducated and unprepared to successfully state our faith in a clear, concise, well-researched, and articulate manner. Many Western Christians are woefully lax in reading and discussing Scripture on their own time. Therefore we don’t really understand the tenet we claim to hold dear. We say, for example, that we believe sin is wrong, but can’t seem to be able to define what sin is and why it causes so many problems. We have a hard time explaining love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy in a way that relates to everyday life.
Third, we often find ourselves in compromised situations. We allow the ways of the world to slip into our own lives, and let them take over a greater part of our lives than they should. We get lazy, and complacent as to our relationship with Christ. We are concerned with being accepted and fitting in. Sometimes that concern is so great, that we relax our guard and let ideas and practices into our lives so we seem more like our unchristian friends. This causes conflict, because then we aren’t backing up our words of faith with our deeds. We become hypocrites and very poor examples of true Christianity. Sadly churchyards are littered with the broken lives of pastors and parishioners who have made that tragic mistake.
Fourth, we are divided on many issues within the body of faith. Most of the arguments are heated, and yet unessential to the sharing of Jesus’ gospel. Denominational issues, matters of worship styles, interpretations of passage of scriptures and views on social issues, are all areas of conflict within the church. It seems that we are so busy trying to put out the self-set fires in our own houses, that we are forgetting the raging inferno destroying everything else outside. That inferno that is a hurting, humanity crying out for God; consciously or unconsciously.
So what are the solutions to Christian timid ness? The same as many other problems within Christian living. The revolutionary idea of giving up our independence and trading it in for total dependence on The Living Savior. Through prayer, and study of His word, He gives us what is needed to boldly do the job He gave us to do. He is here for us to talk to, gives us Scripture to gain insight, and each other to help us to work the tasks. He gives us every tool we might ever need to deal with anything we may face; He gives us Himself. If we lean on Him, why should we let anything the world tries scare us?
Ephesians 6:13-17 talks about the armor of God. That belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness, shield of faith and helmet of salvation are our protection, and the sword He gives us is Himself through His Holy Spirit. With that type of readiness, we can leave timidness behind and bravely and boldly face the world and the culture in a way that will make a difference.
It is quite possible that no one will listen to or believe us. It is possible that we will be laughed at or ridiculed. It is possible that we may face even worse things, such as some of our Christian brothers and sisters face everyday in countries and places even more hostile to Christianity then where we are. It shouldn’t matter. We should take on the mindset of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We should have as our motto “No matter what, we are going to follow Christ, and no matter what, we are going to somehow show you who He is.” Imagine if every believer viewed Christianity in that way. If all people of Christ took one step of boldness for God a day, it is almost a surety that the world would take serious notice.