Yesterday morning, our pastor preached a message from Matthew 5, the interpretation of which my husband and I have discussed for quite some time. The text is, "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." (Mt. 5:39-41)
Our discussion started after 2 incidents this summer with our 5-year old son. Both times he was playing with a neighborhood friend who either pushed or hit him. Being a depraved son of Adam, he returned the offense. He was immediately dealt with using the aforementioned passage of Scripture. His response -- "That doesn't make any sense."
It really doesn't. But God tells us that He has "chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise."(I Cor. 1:27) Not retaliating is, in the eyes of the world, foolish.
Pastor gave the example of Paul and Silas singing in prison when they were miraculously delivered by the earthquake. Most of us would rejoice in God's providence and get out of there! But not Paul and Silas. They denied themselves for Christ's sake, gathered all the prisoners together and were able to see the jailer and "all his house" believe.(Acts 16:22-34)
However, the following verses (vv. 35-40) show that Paul and Silas were not passive nor willing to overlook transgressions against them. They stood their ground and insisted that their rights be honored. What was the difference?
They were willing to deny themselves (e.g. turn the other cheek, give the cloak also, go the extra mile) for Christ's sake.
What a thought for us! Pastor did not differentiate amongst the 3 examples. He believed that they were all dealing with the same issue -- self-denial.
So, as Christians, when do we assert ourselves, demand our rights and right the wrongs done to us and when do we stand down? I don't believe that there is a formula for any of it. But I do believe that, in each situation we need to present it before God and wait for Him to reveal His will. I daresay that it will be different for each person.
Above all else, we are to deny ourselves so that we may accomplish our chief end -- "to glorify God and to enjoy him forever".