Thursday, December 23rd

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.  ~ Matthew 5:38-42 (NRSV)

Turning the other cheek isn’t submissive. It’s defiant. ~ Roy H. Williams

Love people who hate you. Pray for people who have wronged you. It won’t just change their life…it’ll change yours. ~ Mandy Hale (The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass)

Our Advent invitation today is to once again turn our noses, but this time we turn our noses by offering our cheeks and lifting our chins with defiant love. I don’t generally link “defiant” with “love”, but this post took on new meaning when I found this profound and beautiful poem:

Who’s the saint, who’s the tyrant,
Is not determined by the show of strength.
Real mark of human character,
Lies in your gentleness radiant.
The strongest souls on earth,
Keep their strength hidden unless needed,
Whereas the shallow and the entitled,
Walk around trotting over the hearts of the helpless.
Turning the other cheek to the oppressor,
May work in a world of fairies.
In our primitive world of organic apes,
Turning the other cheek means aiding inhumanities.
Love is the only answer, there is no question,
But it is a lover’s duty to stand up to oppression.
~ Abhijit Naskar
(Giants in Jeans: 100 Sonnets of United Earth)

The strongest souls on earth keep their strength hidden unless needed…” Jesus demonstrated the incredible strength of his love through his acts of radical defiance against injustice, hypocrisy, oppression, greed, and even death. What seemed to be acts of submission or surrender were truly his most defiant acts against the evils of the world:

~ After his arrest, Jesus stood before the high priest and council. According to Mark’s account, when Jesus was questioned, there were no “buts” or protests or arguments, but only silence and facts. He defied their malicious interrogation by initially remaining silent and then speaking only a few words of truth (Mark 14: 53-62).
~ We are told that as Jesus agonized in Gethsemane, he asked God to “remove this cup” of pain and suffering he knew was coming. But we see the deep love in the strength of his surrender as he continued, “but not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:32-36).
~ Finally, through his greatest act of defiant love, Jesus asked God to “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:33-34) as he was dying on the cross!

These acts of defiant love, shown through what we would normally regard as weakness or surrender, have drawn us to love and follow Christ Jesus all these years later.

We love defiantly when we turn our cheeks – to return forgiveness for hurtful wounds, silence for stinging remarks, truth for accusations. We love defiantly when we humbly choose to be the first to initiate reconciliation, the first to apologize, the first to break through the barriers of pride and stubbornness. Our strength of integrity and character are demonstrated each time we turn the other cheek, each time we hold our chins up and our heads high, standing in the strength and integrity of Christ.

But the poem also warns us of those times when “turning the other cheek means aiding inhumanities.” We must be mindful that we are not turning the other cheek to cower in fear, or to back away in defeat, or to ignore in denial. Our acts of submission must be acts of love that confront and address. Defiant love is to shine our gentleness radiant while standing up against oppression and injustice for those who cannot. Defiant love is to do what is right for the sake of Christ – in defiance of what others think or perceive.

Turn. Where might we turn our nose, offer our cheek, and lift our chin, as we defiantly return goodness against all inhumanities?

Prayer: God, this defiant love seems so difficult, so contrary to my natural inclinations and reactions. Today, let me glow with your defiant love. Show me how and where to turn in defiance, so that I may stand against all that is wrong or hurtful – while shining your love with gentleness radiant. Amen.

Photo by Weston MacKinnon on Unsplash (cropped by Karen)
Bible verses found at https://www.biblegateway.com/

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