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  • Writer's pictureJill Ball

Turn the other cheek

Our neighbour was working on his garden at 1am. Looking out of the window we could see that he was cutting the grass with a strimmer. It had an irritating, high-pitched whine. This is Turkey and attitudes towards noisy neighbours are different to ones in Britain and so there didn't seem any point in contacting the police.

The temptation was to deliberately disturb them in the morning by being noisy. We resisted and are still on speaking terms with our Iraqi neighbours. However I know of one household where less restraint was shown.

A Story of Revenge

A group of women from different nations were sharing an apartment. One of them was an early riser, but only one of them. Unfortunately she found it difficult to go to sleep and was easily disturbed. The others covered the windows on the doors to keep out the light and crept about in the semi-darkness after 10pm, but she was disturbed by them even talking quietly.

Her solution was to make as much noise as she could in the morning. She clattered around in the shower and banged on the wall because she wanted her housemates to experience being disturbed while trying to sleep.

Such behaviour never improves a situation

a drop of blood from a thorn in a stained glass window design of Jill's

When we seek revenge on our neighbours they are likely to retaliate. Thus the problem worsens and the tension between us grows.

Humans throughout history have tended towards excessive revenge. Their judgement is clouded by hatred and they want to punish the enemy not merely seek justice.

We are rarely impartial judges.

We should leave revenge, and indeed judgement, to our God.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12 v 18 - 21

A Story of Reconciliation

When a father doesn't hide who his favourite son is, the other children are often jealous. When the favoured son is arrogant this can turn to hatred, but brothers don't usually sell that boy into slavery. However, that is what happened to Joseph, son of Isaac and Rachel.

After a cossetted childhood, Joseph had a difficult life of slavery and unjust imprisonment in Egypt, but eventually he became powerful and respected in Pharaoh's court. Later, when his brothers came before him, begging to buy wheat, he could have taken revenge, but he didn't. My reading of the events is that Joseph was conflicted and confused, but eventually he forgave them and was reconciled with them.

Because of the famine, the whole family moved to Egypt, where Joseph had authority over them all. When their father died his brothers were afraid that Joseph would hold a grudge and pay them back:

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Genesis 50 v 19-21

What a different place the world would be if this was how more people reacted!

Jesus teaches us to not to take revenge, to turn the other cheek and to

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.
And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Matthew 5 v 38-41 (NIV)

This is radical and would change our society because this is not how the world works!

But Jesus' teaching are even more alternative. He is not just talking about behaviour, but our heart.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Matthew 5 v 43- 46a (NIV)

How different we can become, if learn to love as Jesus did!

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