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The most difficult part of being a Christian is trying to be one of God’s representatives on earth. That is no small task.  God has given us rules for how to interact with others, and some of them are not easy to follow.  But if every person who claims to be a Christian actually followed those rules, our world would be a very different place.

The rule I think that most of us struggle with is to turn the other cheek. In Luke 6:27-30, Jesus told the disciples,

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

Strong words. Yet how would our world look if everyone followed those rules?

It is a natural to want to retaliate against someone who wrongs us. Even my own motto always has been that if someone fires at me, I will fire back harder.  But the older I get, the more I learn that that approach doesn’t work.  What I’ve found is this: When I retaliate, I feel unsettled.  My heart isn’t at peace.  Now, when I turn the other cheek, I may feel momentary discomfort.  However, after feeling that subsides, I am at peace with myself.  More importantly, when I turn the other cheek, I show God that I trust Him to be my vindicator.  I am willing to allow Him to deal with whatever issue I am facing.  And inevitably, He takes my problems and uses them for my benefit.

Another challenge for Christians is to know how much to care for others. In my experience, there is no middle ground with this issue.  There are two groups of people: those who do too much for others, and those who do too little.  No one seems to get it quite right.

In Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians 2:3-4, he says,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Valuing others above ourselves is hard to do. We naturally think of our own needs first.  But living a life in which we satisfy only our own needs and rarely serve others doesn’t work.  In our most intimate relationships, such an approach is a disaster.  Try always putting your own needs before those of your spouse and see how that works for you.  If you do, I can assure you that you will be on a fast track to a divorce.  If you do the same with your children, they will grow up to be unhappy and frustrated adults.  Our personal relationships don’t work when we don’t regularly put the needs of others before our own.  However, when we take care of the needs of those closest to us, we show them that we love them.  We show them that they matter to us.  And then those relationships “work.”

We aren’t just called to consider the needs of our friends and families. We are supposed to consider the needs of strangers.  That is harder to do.  This past weekend, our family spent some time in New York City.  That is a place that is teeming with strangers in need of help, from homeless people to prostitutes to drug addicts.  The number of people in need of help in our country is beyond what our government or churches can manage.  We each, individually, have a responsibility to do something to help others.  Some of us are called to do more than others, but each of us has a responsibility to do something.  Parts of our world look like a tragic mess because we all aren’t following Paul’s challenge to put the interests of others before our own.

Being God’s representative on earth is not an easy task. We are called to act in ways that don’t make sense by the world’s values.  But remember that God’s ways are always better than ours.  And when we try to follow His ways, our lives – and our world – improve.

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