Jesus spoke a lot of powerful words, one of the most memorable being that we should turn the other cheek if struck on the face. It is interpreted that Christians should not retaliate if subjected to violent or hurtful acts. It doesn’t have to mean actually being struck, it could be vicious words or actions. It was an about turn from the ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’ teaching of the Old Testament. He brought a new message and largely ripped up the rule book that 1st Century Jews lived by.
Last week I was running (very slowly) through the village when I saw a woman walking towards me. I used to be very good friends with a member of her family until that friendship broke down. The deterioration of that friendship was as much my fault as the other persons. It was all part of the process that led me to walk away from the church with a bitter taste in my mouth regarding Christians and organised religion. I’d learnt the hard way. Not all of them practice what they preach.
As I approached this woman I wasn’t particularly comfortable but decided I would ‘pass myself’ by saying hello to her. I never pass anyone without, at the very least, nodding a greeting. It’s what people in rural Northern Ireland do, or at least I thought so. I looked at the woman as I jogged past and was astonished to watch her turn her head away and deliberately avoid eye contact with me. I plodded past, too stunned to even react to this most blatant of snubs.
I’m sure this supposedly Christian lady knows the Bible verse in question as well as I do, but by literally turning her cheek on me she might as well have slapped mine. I was hurt and writing this post is a form of therapy for me. What did I do to deserve such a blatant rebuke? Was I that bad of a person? What has been said about me? What is being said about me? My mind was flooded with doubts and paranoid thoughts. And above all else, it fuelled my distrust and resentment towards the card carrying Christian community.
There’s no real conclusion to this post but Fionnuala told me a similar story soon afterwards about another former member of the church in question being publicly snubbed by its members. Jesus taught humility and inclusion not ostracising and condemnation. The Good Samaritan? The woman about to be stoned for adulterous? The lepers, tax collectors, the social outcasts he gathered around him. It’s hard to turn the other cheek when faced with such hypocrisy and sanctimony.