Just as the five-minute warning bell announced the end of noon recess, she slapped my face. Hard. We were standing under the coat racks in the hall of our junior high school. Each of us wanted our own interpretation of this disagreement to be heard.
I don't remember the exact nature of our argument. It may have had something to do with religion, since our respective churches interpreted the Bible differently and we were both loyal enough to what we'd been taught to defend it to the fight.
Whatever the argument, the slap stung. I stepped back and paused as deep inside I heard Jesus' instructions to His followers on the mountain, "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also." Without hesitating to think how it would feel, I protruded the other side of my face toward her.
Immediately, she backed off and did not slap me. "Why?" I wondered. A moment ago she was ready to fight. What made her change her mind?
I don't like confrontation. I honestly wanted to be her friend. These severe differences did nothing to promote our friendship. Now, why this about-face? Why had she backed off when the perfect opportunity to prove her point was easily within reach?
In the several decades and long-distance re-establishment of our friendship since that time, I still cannot explain why this incident occurred. I only know that Jesus commanded us to "love your enemies; do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:29-31)
These lofty directives comprise what is called "the golden rule." Our natural bent is not to treat our relatives or acquaintances, much less, our enemies with such ardent esteem. We're far more prone to take the eye-for-an-eye approach, that is, UNTIL, we submit to His way. Then, the tables pivot on God's everlasting love. Living within us, the Holy Spirit empowers us to turn the other cheek even if the blow promises to sting.
Jesus suffered far more than a stinging cheek from those who crucified Him. He was humiliated by being stripped naked, and robed in scarlet ridicule. He was crowned with a tiara of sharp thorns, mocked, lied about and falsely accused, spit on, beaten until His back was shredded and blood-stained. He was taunted and repeatedly struck on the head. He endured it all without a word of complaint. Even though He knew He was not guilty, He did not defend himself. No wonder He can instruct us to face with courage the strikes of another person, or the loss of our coat, or the insistance of another who insists we go somewhere or do something more than we're willing to go or do.
This world is God's creation. In spite of our myriad objections and protests, we live by His rules. He desires for us to be holy as He is holy. That includes loving our neighbor as ourselves and doing unto them as we would have them do to us, even volunteering for a smarting hurt. By demonstrating His love in a painful situation we may turn a wayward heart to Him.
Bending With the Bamboo, is the memoir of Winnie's life in Laos during the Vietnam War. Following Lao people from their mountain villages to the crowded Thai refugee camps, and on to resettlement in America, the Kaetzels ministered all the way.