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Turn the Other Cheek
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Vengeance is one of the most primal human desires. It is also one that Christians are charged to avoid. Christ adamantly opposed retribution. In Luke 6:28-30 He advises us to “. . . bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.”

In Matthew 5:41 we are told “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Later in Matthew 18, when asked by Peter “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Christ replied “I tell you, not seven times, but seven times seventy times.”

Even the often-cited rule in Exodus: “an eye for an eye” (Exodus 21:23-25) is meant less as an approval of retribution than as a limit on the maximum amount of  retribution that is acceptable.

This should show how serious God was when he claimed vengeance for Himself, not for us. Yet many still claim that turning the other cheek may work in a perfect world, but just is not applicable in this world—for practical people.

Guess what? Christ was right—more right that we imagined about getting even.

Less Satisfied

A study* conducted by German and Dutch economists shows that vindictiveness not only is bad for your prospects in the next world—it hurts you in this one. The study examined the lives of 20,000 people. It showed that vindictive people earn less, spend more time unemployed, have fewer friends, and are generally less satisfied with life than those who forgive and forget.

Think about it, and you can see why vindictiveness may backfire. People bent on “getting even” are more focused on the negative. If you snub them, they snub you. If you hurt them, they hurt you—an eye for an eye. The slight may have been unintentional, inadvertent, or misinterpreted, yet active retribution follows. Further, they often fail to balance the scales when they benefit. A vindictive person is often less likely to be concerned about balancing favors when someone else shares cookies or donuts with them. This makes vindictive people less desirable as employees, as friends, or simply to be around.

Someone who goes the extra mile, on the other hand, is more pleasant to be around. They just seem to be there when you need a hand or an extra favor. They are valued—both as friends and employees.

Who gets to stay when things get tight? Who gets voted off the island?

We should not be surprised that the Bible’s guidance work best—even when it seems like it should not work. God’s wisdom is greater than ours. 

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By Mark Lardas. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

*  http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-03/uob-vdp032609.php

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