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Posts Tagged ‘turning the other cheek’

Jo 23I have had some notable cooking disasters in my life. Several times, I have baked cakes that were well-browned on the outside but, alas, still gooey in the middle. I also remember roasting a chicken once as a newlywed, only to find that when I cut into it, the middle was still pink. Then as I tried to put it back in the oven, I dropped it in a sink full of washing-up water instead! Yes, sometimes things might look good on the outside, yet turn out to be far less desirable on the inside.

Or perhaps you have had the opposite experience of something appearing not so good on the outside, yet once you delved a little deeper, it turned out to be surprisingly palatable. When our daughter was little, if she did not like the appearance of something I served up for dinner that she had not tasted before, she would say, ‘I won’t like it!’ She had already made up her mind, merely on the strength of how that particular food item looked.

Recently, our youngest granddaughter and I had an interesting experience. Someone we did not know was rude to us because we had unwittingly inconvenienced them. This person’s plans were messed up—and she let us know that in no uncertain terms. Now, I did not know quite what to say to our granddaughter to explain this person’s behaviour, so I just said something like, ‘I think she was a little bit mean, don’t you?’

Sometime later, when we saw this person again, Maxine waved to her in her usual friendly way—and, lo and behold, this person waved back enthusiastically, as if we were her long-lost friends! Maxine then said to me, ‘Well, they’re a little bit nice—and a little bit mean!’

Later, I wondered whether she had said something quite profound. Perhaps she was right. What’s more, could this be true of us all, including me? Are there times when I too can be ‘a little bit nice—and a little bit mean’? Hmm!

This seems to be what even the Apostle Paul experienced at times as well.

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Romans 7:18-19 New Living Translation

I can relate to that, can’t you? But thankfully, there is a way out for us, as Paul goes on to say:

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 7:24-25

But wait—there’s more!

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 8:1-2

Phew! What a relief that we can have God’s Spirit within us to empower us—that we can belong to the one who is more than able to help us be a little less mean and a whole lot nicer!

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I had just finished speaking at a meeting and was chatting with an old friend as we ate lunch. We had not seen each other for some time and were reminiscing about the years when he and his wife used to run a cafe in a very multicultural area of Sydney. I had met them in that period and was so impressed at their heart to reach out to the people who came across their path on a daily basis in that cafe. As we chatted, he told me a story from those times I had never heard before. He shared with me how one day, his wife (let’s call her Marie) was unable to come to work alongside him at the cafe as she normally did. But over time, Marie had befriended a Muslim lady (let’s call her Sara) from Somalia who, when she heard about this, offered to help them out for the day.

‘I will be Marie today!’ she declared—and she meant it.

Sara set to work and, not long after, saw an elderly lady outside the shop having difficulty walking, despite having a walking frame. Now knowing how her friend Marie, who has such a warm, caring, friendly manner, would act, she rushed out to help this older lady.

‘Are you all right? Would you like to sit down for a while? Would you like a cup of coffee? Or can I get you a taxi home?’

But the older lady, seeing her Good Samaritan was a Muslim woman, turned on her.

‘No—I don’t like Muslims!’ she replied with vigour.

Sara bit her tongue but did not retaliate. After all, she was Marie that day—she had promised to act just as Marie would. She continued graciously helping the older lady, who did at last allow herself to be helped into a taxi.

The following day, my friend who ran the cafe received a phone call.

‘Do you have a Muslim woman working in your coffee shop?’ the voice demanded.

‘Yes, I do,’ my friend replied, wondering what was to come next.

‘Well, I have something for her. I will see it gets delivered to your shop today, so if you could pass it onto her …’

The parcel duly arrived and when my friend next saw Sara, he handed it to her.

‘What is it?’ Sara asked a little fearfully.

‘I’ve no idea,’ my friend responded, ‘but you might as well open it.’

When she did, inside was a wonderful pamper pack of perfume, bath salts and skin care products, just right for her—a peace offering par excellence. And Sara accepted the gift with grace.

What a challenge this story was to me on several levels! But above all, how well it shows us that we can choose how we respond to others. We can respond with anger and defensiveness, which often worsens the situation. Or we can respond with grace and forbearance, like Sara did. As a result, barriers were broken down in an amazing way. And all because Sara chose to act as she knew her friend Marie would.

I was humbled by this story. How about you?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph 4:32

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