Got into an interesting conversation on Google+ about my earlier post – about the scariness of going privately to talk to someone who has upset you, one to one, when you don’t know how they’re going to react. Sure it’s scary, hence our human tendency to do all sorts of other things that make us feel less vulnerable – like discussing it with friends and getting their affirmation. That’s natural, I said, but it’s not how Jesus says I should behave.
But are you willing to trust that the other person will be understanding? I was asked.
That’s beside the point, I tried to explain – I’ve signed up to following Jesus and obeying him, no matter what the cost. (Not that I do this all the time, I’m very much not there yet, as you see from my previous post. But I’m talking here about the general principles, the theory about how I should be living.) It’s not that Jesus says “go and talk to this person in private and everything will be fine” (he doesn’t, he says what we should do if the one-to-one doesn’t work). But he does say I should first of all try that avenue.
Sure, I may get yelled at, or spat at, or whatever. Hey, it’s happened to me. It has happened that I tried talking to a friend about something they’d done that upset me, and they weren’t willing to listen, they turned against me instead, finding things to blame me for.
And this is part of why we tend to avoid doing this. It means making ourselves vulnerable, and opening ourselves up to more hurt when we have already been hurt, and the human inclination to avoid pain means we want to stay away from the person who has hurt us, or if we have to face them then we’d much rather take a bunch of friends with us to make them see our side.
But that’s not how Jesus tells me to behave. And I’ve signed up to obey him.
But if you do that, you might get hurt.
Sure. That’s part of the deal.
I remember an email conversation I had with my cousin a long time ago, when we got into a discussion about my faith (which my cousin doesn’t share) and somehow at some stage the conversation got to the point of my cousin saying: but if you do this turning the other cheek stuff, you’ll end up like him, on a cross.
I guess if I believed that ending up on a cross really is the end, I’d be a lot more worried about that.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not totally free of fear, I’m not living in some kind of zenlike calm without ever worrying about anything or experiencing feelings of anxiety or cringing instinctively from possible pain. I’m human and not a masochist and I’m not detached from my emotions. Dying in itself doesn’t scare me – I know where I’m going and it’s a much much better place than here – but the thought of suffering is highly unattractive to me.
But I know that suffering is part of this life, and I know that whilst God hasn’t promised to give me a pain-free life, he has promised to be with me in whatever I go through. I know he will give me the strength to cope with whatever comes my way, as he has up to now.
Oops. There was a point I was going to make and instead I’ve meandered far into other stuff. My point was this: that doing what’s right is what matters, no matter what the result is. If Jesus says “go and talk to this person in private” and I go and talk to that person in private, then whatever happens, I will be able to look at myself in the mirror the next day and know I did the right thing. When I woke up today and realised that last night I did the wrong thing – that bothered me and I had to deal with it.
And this is the one bit in this post that is relevant not just to Christians but to anyone with a functioning conscience: do what you know is right, and you’ll be able to look yourself in the face the next morning. It doesn’t matter how the other person reacts – you are responsible for your own behaviour, not for other people’s reactions.
Do you believe in honesty? Then don’t lie, even when you think that telling the truth might get you into a tight spot. Telling the truth may cause you inconvenience, but telling a lie will make you feel guilty, and rightly so. Do you believe it’s wrong to steal? Then don’t do it, even when it’s very tempting, because you will have to look yourself in the face the next morning. Do you believe in kindness? Then don’t be cruel to others. I know how I feel when I’ve given in to my temper and said hurtful words to someone – you see, it’s me that has to live with myself, and so, for my own sake, I need to try and do what’s right, no matter what the cost, no matter what the result might be, no matter what unpleasant reactions I might get from other people. If I suffer as a result of doing what’s right, that’s a lot lot better than suffering the guilt of knowing I did wrong.
And if I get crucified, I’ll be in excellent company. (Both metaphorically and also literally, in the world to come.)