Frederick Douglass was a great American who was born a slave, yet grew up to be a famous writer and statesman. At one time he was traveling in the state of Pennsylvania, and was forced, on account of his color, to ride in the baggage-car, in spite of the fact that he had paid the same price as the other passengers. When some of the white passengers went into the baggage-car to console him, one of them said, "I am sorry, Mr. Douglass, that you have been degraded in this manner." Douglass straightened himself up on the box upon which he was sitting, and replied, "They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me."
In Matthew 5:40, Christ taught, "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." Jesus was speaking about a particularly coarse and offensive form of contempt in the Eastern world. If one wanted to curse or insult another, he might use more than words. With the back of his right hand he would flick or strike the right cheek of the man he wanted to express scorn or hatred for, as though he wanted to brush him brusquely aside. It was an action of utter contempt and insulting behavior, rather than physical violence. However, as Christians, we have to rise above the insult.
In describing the crucifixion, Mark says, "Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and say to Him, 'Prophecy!' And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands" (14:65). This was a sport common in ancient times, resembling what is known now as "blind-man's-bluff." One person was blindfolded and the others struck him in turn, and then asked him to guess the name of the one who struck him. He was not released until he gave the name correctly. In this way, the persecutors of Jesus insulted Him, challenging Him, if he were a prophet, to tell the names of His tormentors. Yet, Christ responded, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34).
A young man angrily expressed to his pastor, "I have been badly insulted, and I am going to get my revenge!" His pastor advised, "You need to go home, cool off, and forgive the offender." "What do you mean?" retorted the young man. "He muddied my name and I am going to clean it up." "That's just my point," replied his minister. "The whole world knows that mud brushes off a lot more easily when it is dry."
"Love will hardly even notice when others do it wrong" (1 Corinthians 13:5, TLB).
Dave Arnold, Pastor
Gulf Coast Worship Center
New Port Richey , Florida 34654