Urban Legends Part 5
“Just turn the other cheek”
Matt 5:38-39, Luke 4:28-30, John 18:12, Matt 21:12, John 2:13, Matt 26:53
Urban Legend Debunked
A. Today is the last sermon in our ‘urban legend’ series. Next week we are going to start a new sermon series called ‘Character Sketches.” We are going to look at the stories of ‘common people in the hands of an uncommon God.”
B. It seems with the invention of the internet and emails urban legends get passed around much more quickly. The sad thing is that they are believed and then passed along without being looked into. It makes it hard to know what to believe and what not to believe.
C. Sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. It can get so embarrassing that many people just stop reading any forwarded emails or make it a policy to never pass them along. Still, there is that one that comes along from time to time that we feel so sure about and seems so important, that we make an exception, and end up getting burned again.
D. Are there common characteristics to email rumors, hoaxes, and urban legends that can tip us off that they may not be true? Here are six red flags that ought to at least prompt us to be suspicious and avoid passing it on to others.
1. Promises of ‘easy’ money
The first way to know if an email you have received is false is simply if it is an offer for ‘easy money.”
Any email that says you are going to benefit financially by forwarding it to others or you going to inherit money if you would just send a check to help with legal fees is a hoax.
For some reason though people get caught up in this and are constantly being ripped off. Follow the old proverb, “If it sounds too good to be true IT IS.”
2. The lack of good, first-hand information.
The most common ingredient of a false tale is called a “friend of a friend” story. There are either no facts that you can check out, or the source of the story is described only vaguely.
Urban legends commonly lack the classic details of "who, what, where, when, and why.” If we receive an email with what would otherwise be an important or interesting topic, but it is lacking in specifics, we should regard it suspiciously.
An example is a warning that is frequently circulated on the Internet that there is a motion picture being planned that will portray Jesus as a homosexual. All the email says is that somebody somewhere is going to make this movie, then asks the reader to add his or her name to the bottom of the email and forward it to as many people as possible. There is nothing in the message that indicates who is planning the movie, where or when. There is no studio, director, or organization to send the protest to. That particular rumor, by the way, is about 20 years old.
What makes false stories even more difficult to detect is that some of them do include details. For example, there was a rumor that HIV-infected syringe needles were being found in gas pump handles in Jacksonville, Florida. The email named a particular officer of the “Jacksonville, Florida Police Department,” and listed statistics of how many people had been infected with HIV or had died. It gave the story the feel of documentation. The officer did not exist, however, and neither did the police department. Jacksonville is actually served by a sheriff’s office and they’ve never heard of the officer whose name was in the email.
3. Often they have an appeal to the sensational, the ‘wow’ factor
One of the prime reasons false tales have long lives is that we all love to tell a "wow" story. There are sensational things that happen in real life and talking about them is natural. These urban legends sound just true enough to possibly be authentic, and sensational enough to merit retelling.
They may be humorous, such as the story of the man who ran off to Europe with his secretary, called his wife back home and told her to sell the Mercedes and send him the money, so she advertised it for sale for five dollars, and sent it to him just as he asked. Or they may be alarming such as the widely circulated story that says congress is about to tax emails on the Internet in order to recoup lost postage costs. Both of which are false.
4. Guilt trips
One of the fascinating patterns of some false stories is that they will appeal to you to do some noble act such as forward emails to help pay for surgery for a child or solicit your help in some noble cause, then will try to motivate you to do it by dumping guilt on your head.
There will be statements such as, “It will take only two minutes to forward this to all your friends, and if you don’t, you’re a cold-hearted, self-centered person.” Most reasonable people who are appealing for help will not package their requests in that way.
5. Insider information
Another common red flag of an email rumor is that it is information that people feel is not going to be known any other way except through the email underground. It feels like “insider” information that is somehow being missed by mainstream sources.
It appeals to those who are convinced all the people in the media, all the educators, and all the politicians, and all the doctors in the world are all part of a conspiracy to hide the truth. Highly unlikely.
6. Details that don’t make sense
A large number of false stories have aspects that just don’t fit reality and which ought to be a red flag about their credibility.
An example is a rumor that got started after the tragic crash of an airlines jet a few years ago, killing all who were on board. Almost immediately, an email story started that said a pastor’s wife aboard the plane spent nine minutes on the public address system just before the plane crashed, helping passengers make peace with God. These details were said to have come from a pilot who had heard the cockpit voice recordings recovered from the crash site. Later, the actual cockpit voice recordings were released publicly and the rumor was proven false.
But if you gave this any thought it should have been a red flag since it really didn’t make much sense. The story seemed unlikely. What professional airline crew in the midst of an in-flight emergency and who was preparing the passengers for a possible crash landing would hand the P.A. microphone over to any passenger at all, much more for nine minutes?
E. The only way we can really be sure about an eRumor is to check it out such as visiting TruthOrFiction.com.
F. Just like there are urban legends that just seem to never die and are passed around and believed by many, there are many urban legends that are believed about God, Jesus and Christianity. They are passed around without looking to find out if they are true or false. They seem to live on even though they are not true. Before passing them along it would be good to check into them to see if they are true.
G. We have already covered five of the most popular spiritual urban legends. There are many ways to God. The Bible is full of contradictions. Christians should not judge. All sin is the same. To forgive is to forget. We discovered that all of them are false. Today we are going to continue our sermon series as we look into another very popular ‘Urban Legend.’ This one is about turning the other cheek. Are we supposed to “Turn the other cheek” all the time?
H. There is a lot of misunderstanding about this phrase, ‘turn the other cheek.’ I think the problem stems from a misunderstanding of the difference between ‘persecution, abuse, and spiritual warfare.’ Today I will take a look at these as well as what Jesus really meant when He said, “Turn the other cheek.” We are going to start in Matthew
Jesus’ teaching “turn the other cheek.” Matt 5:38-39
A. Let’s read Matthew 5:38-40. Here, Jesus quotes the teaching from the OT law of “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Now, if you study where this is taught in the Old Testament, you will find that it is related to judgment in matters of law. Basically, it called for a penalty equal to the crime committed. A person who lost an eye could not demand that the guilty party pay with their life. Now this is right and makes perfect sense in a court of law. Actually we need this today in our courts. We need caps on some of these ridiculous lawsuits.
B. However, as usual, the Pharisee’s took God’s word and perverted it. They took the commandment of God and used it to justify personal revenge. Jesus, therefore, clarifies this false teaching and says we are not to seek revenge in personal matters. He says if an evil person “slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
C. In the culture Jesus lived, a slap on the face was not intended to physically hurt someone but rather was intended to pay the highest form of insult possible to the individual, a sort of a challenge.
D. The problems come when people take this verse to mean that you CANNOT defend yourself but should always turn the other cheek.
Online Text question
A. Today I have another online text question
Should this man have defended himself and hit back?
No he did what was right and basically turned the other cheek
Yes, he should have defended himself
Man, I have no idea!!!
B. Go ahead and text in your answer. You only get one vote. This survey can only accept a limited amount of votes so if you wait too long you won’t be able to text your vote.
C. The topic of self defense is often a very emotional issue, especially among Christians. Many feel that a Christian should just always turn the other cheek. This is an area where we need to be sensitive not only to the Scriptures for guidance but especially aware of the particular leading of the Holy Spirit and the voice of our inner man.
D. We need to understand that there are different types of trouble, harassment or tribulation that we will experience in life: persecution, abuse, and spiritual warfare. If we are able to recognize the difference because that will determine whether we turn the other cheek or resist.
E. Persecution is being harassed strictly because of our Christian faith.
1. For it to be ‘persecution’ it has to be sanctioned, made legal by an authority figure or governing body or.
2. For clarity sake, the US has never persecuted Christians. Now many Muslim countries persecute Christians but never in America have Christians been persecuted.
3. When we are being persecuted we should either endure it or flee it.
4. Some people feel that that are being persecuted at work, but I would disagree. I would call that abuse or spiritual warfare.
F. Abuse is being harassed but it is illegal.
1. Things like spouse abuse, child abuse, work place abuse, and bully abuse. In these situations you should NOT turn the other cheek. We should resist this, put a stop to this, report this to authority, or at least flee.
2. Many times Christians are being abused and they think they are supposed to put up with this and endure it or turn the other cheek. But that is not when to turn the other cheek. We should do everything in our power to put and end to any kind of abusive behavior. Especially if a person who cannot defend themselves is being abused, we should not hesitate to come to their defense.
G. Spiritual warfare is being harassed every day but it is spiritual not physical.
1. Spiritual warfare has many faces. If we are being treated unkindly by a spouse or co-workers or siblings because of our faith that is ‘spiritual warfare.’ Maybe someone is spreading rumors about you. There is not much you can do about this but to pray for those who are being used by the devil.
2. Spiritual warfare could also include daily temptations. Everyday Christians are involved in spiritual warfare. We are told by the apostle Paul in Ephesians that we are to to ‘stand’ and fight when it comes to spiritual warfare. We are supposed to wear spiritual armor to do this.
H. So it depends on whether it is persecution, abuse or spiritual warfare whether we ‘turn the other cheek’ or not.
I. Lets see how Jesus responded when He was harassed and attacked.
See if we can get a better understanding what Jesus meant when He said, “turn the other cheek.” Did Jesus literally turn the other cheek to His enemies every time? Did He ever resist evil men?
There are times to flee. Luke 4:28-30
A. When Jesus preached the gospel for the first time in His home town the people got so angry they tried to kill him. They grabbed him and dragged him to the top of a hill and were about to kill him. Now I ask you, at that moment were they his enemies, were they “evil people?” Was this not a perfect opportunity for Jesus, “not to resist and to turn other cheek?” Yes, but did He? No. What did He do? He escaped. He probably did something supernatural. He walked away through the crowd.
B. Well this at least shows that Jesus did not mean for this teaching of "turning other cheek" to always be taken literally in every case and allow people to hurt you. Surely He didn’t. There are times to flee!
There are times to use the law to defend yourself. John 18:12
A. What about when Jesus was before the High Priest. I ask you were they His enemy? Was this not evil? After He was arrested He was taken before the high priest and questioned. Jesus appealed to the Jewish law which forbade “self incrimination.” He said, “I spoke openly, get witnesses to speak.” Then He was slapped on the face. This would be the ultimate test, to turn the other cheek. Did He? No, He rebuked the high priest. “If I spoke evil tell me, if I didn’t you have no right to hit me. It’s against the law.” I believe He spoke this with great emotion, loudly.
B. This also shows that there is a time to defend yourself by appealing to a higher authority. It may be an adult, or the police, or the courts. You can at least defend yourself verbally!
C. Paul also defended himself in the same manner many times by appealing to a higher authority. He was arrested and was going to be beaten by the Roman soldiers and rather than turning the other cheek, he warned the people that they were in danger of breaking the law and that he was going to report them if they did beat him. They immediately stopped. Acts 22:22-29
D. If you are being harassed at work you don’t have to ‘turn the other cheek.” That is illegal and you can decide to use the full force of the law against them. If you are student and you are being censored and told you cannot mention your faith or you can’t bring your Bible to school, you don’t have to ‘turn the other cheek.” You can let them know that is illegal censorship and you can use the full force of the law to put a stop to that kind of behavior.
There are times to put a stop to the bad behavior Matt 21:12 & John 2:13
A. How about when Jesus cleansed the Temple of the money changers. By the way, He did this twice once at the beginning of His ministry and then again three years later. Were they evil? What did Jesus do?
B. In John 2:13 Jesus made a whip and whipped them, kicked over the tables and drove out the animals. It is interesting because this surely was not Jesus first time in Temple. He had been there many times before and yet did nothing but on two occasions He was moved in his spirit and drove them out physically. Do you think He repented of this afterwards?
C. This shows us a key in this teaching. In order to apply it properly “turning the other cheek” one must be in constant touch, with the Holy Spirit. There is a time to resist evil and lash out against it and a time to not resist it.
D. We are surely to forego personal vengeance and retaliation motivated by animosity, hurt pride and resentment. We are clearly allowed to resist evil, injustice, unrighteousness and protect the oppressed.
E. When dealing with abuse we should seek to put an end to it as soon as possible. This was wrong what was going on in the Temple and Jesus put an end to it. He did not ‘turn the other cheek.”
When did Jesus ‘turn the other cheek?’ Matt 26:53
A. Lets also look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here we see Jesus literally fulfilling his own words of “turning the other cheek,” and not resisting evil. The crowd came to arrest him. Notice a very important attitude. “I could call for a legion of angels.” This is a most important point.
B. The fact that Jesus had the power to resist and win but chose not to use it makes this a gospel act, a Christian trait. He was in no way afraid or intimated. He could truly have called for the angels and wiped the crowd out. But He chose not to for the sake of the kingdom of God.
C. We learn from this that “turning other cheek” because you are afraid of fighting, afraid of losing is cowardliness and not in any way Christian. If we are to turn the other cheek, we must do it from the standpoint of being stronger and choosing not to use your strength.
D. In the book of Revelations 21:8, there is a list of the kind of people who will be cast into the lake of fire. The list includes murders, sexually immoral, liars, unbelievers, idolaters, etc. Yet at the beginning of this list it says cowards will also be cast into the lake of fire. The old KJ says the fearful. Now when I read this I was shocked. I didn’t know God had such feelings about cowards and the fearful. When I read this to my children they all were shocked and said, “Well I’m not going to be fearful.” Whatever is meant by that, we know that God does not respect cowardliness. Surely turning the other cheek because we are afraid of losing does not please God.
E. It might be wise to teach children self defense like Judo or Boxing so that they know they can defend themselves and then have the choice of turning the other cheek. Otherwise they have no choice when they are challenged to a fight, they will back down and think they are ‘turning the other cheek,” because they are supposed to, but in fact they are really afraid of being beat up. That kind of Christianity is a disgrace!
F. There is nothing wrong with a person defending themselves if they are attacked, but if we chose not to resist we need to do it because we chose to not because we are afraid.
G. It would be even wiser to teach our children the art of spiritual warfare. How they could call for a legion of angels if they needed, or how to rebuke the devil then they could have the choice.
A. Jesus did say we are to turn the other cheek. But we can see from Jesus’ own behavior He did not mean that we are to do this all the time.
B. First we need to decide if it is spiritual warfare, which we must fight every day, or abuse which we should seek to put a stop to or if it is persecution we might consider fleeing or enduring.
C. One thing is certain is that when we do ‘turn the other cheek’ DON’T do it because we are just scared of making trouble or afraid of being beaten, we need to do it because we chose to do it as followers of Christ.