Resist Not Evil
This is not to say that we allow evil to take hold of our lives. Rather, it is that when bad things happen to us, it's not our job to take up physical arms against that situation or person. We don't take law, whether physical or spiritual, into our own hands. We trust and pray for the governments in place to do the right thing (1 Timothy 1:1-2). Remember, these scriptures were being spoken and written during the oppressive regime of the Romans. Above our governments and leaders, though, we trust that God will lead us out of every situation. This may require action on our parts, but until it is directed by God, we don't take an action that is retaliatory. Here are three instances where God asks us to withhold from retaliating:
To be struck on the cheek in this sense was to be hit with an open palm. The common instance where this type of strike was to publicly insult or chastise an individual. This is important because it is not that we are beaten up for which Christ asks us to turn the other cheek. It is why. Christ is telling us that when someone would harm us, whether verbally or physically for our faith, we must not return violence for violence. Peter and John were publicly beaten, Stephen was stoned to death and people throughout the early church were beaten and martyred because of their faith. They valued their witness too greatly to get some form of physical retribution. We should take the same approach. Whether it is getting beaten up for Christ, publicly shamed for our faith or even martyred, we must not allow attacks based on faith to lure us into a battle. If someone spits venom at us, let it pass over and let God handle them. It may be that the one who persecutes us now will be a Paul later on.
Removal of Possessions
This doesn't happen all that often in the western world, but people are dispossessed of their belongings today just as they were in Christ's time because of their faith. People in certain regions of the world are taxed because they are Christians. If they do not pay that tax, they can be thrown in jail or even murdered. Others are thrown in jail because of their faith and see their homes and places of worship either seized or demolished. However, even in the Western world where "freedom" still exists, being a Christian has less freedoms than it used to. We can be denied the ability to worship or pray in certain areas of society. Laws have been passed that can put us in compromising positions in our faith. If we choose to not uphold those laws, we can be sued and in some cases arrested. We aren't to handle these hindrances and attacks with violence or vitriol. If they want our job, give it to them. If they push us out of one space, we will occupy another. Don't give into the hate being spewed under the guise of tolerance. Rise above it and allow God to guide us to where we will prosper.
Going Beyond Our Means
This is not so much just a response to an attack but also a request to go the extra mile. Some people will try and string us along in our witnessing and make us explain every detail. We don't need to get bogged down in semantics, but if we have an answer to a question/accusation they offer, we should answer in the best method possible and go beyond by tying it back to the messages that really matter: salvation and relationship with Jesus and service to others. Others, however, are legitimately seeking help and answers for their daily lives. Some will seem like a handful at times and seem to be more trouble than they are worth. Every soul is worth our time, though. Whatever we can do, as long as it is withing the bounds of the Word of God (i.e. don't drive someone to a drug den/bar), we should do it. Take that friend to an A.A. meeting and sit with them the whole time. Then, take them out to eat pancakes and coffee. Sit with that friend who has gone through a rough patch and hear them out. It might be the 3rd time this month they've had a dilemma, but we are the one person that connects them to God. Don't lose sight of that. These needy souls will recognize what we are because nobody else will be what we are for them.
If we will stand tall against the physical and verbal assaults on our lives because of Christ, endure the losses that society and people thrust upon us for our faith and reach beyond what is deemed necessary by society to help those in need, we will find ourselves living as true witnesses for Christ. People will see our punishment and our loss. They will see our willingness to go beyond the norm. We will be witnesses to more than those we directly interact with. Someone, a Paul or a Timothy, will notice and come to follow after Jesus along with us.
Scriptures referenced from Matthew 5:39-41
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.