A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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ON TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK: A CASE STUDY, WITH CHIPS

The devil works overtime, through people, to twist and outright change the message of the Gospel.

One of the his favourite tricks is to try to show Christianity as a weak and effeminate belief system.

But the Gospel message as delivered – and lived – by Jesus is anything but weak.

Take the teaching on turning the other cheek, for example. If you ask most Christians or non-Christians what “turning the other cheek” means, they’ll probably use words like ‘compromise’, ‘tolerance’, ‘back down’, ‘forgiveness’, ‘compassion’, ‘meekness’, etc., to describe it. But the fact is, turning the other cheek has nothing to do with those things.

Turning the other cheek means fearlessly standing your ground.

When you turn the other cheek, you stand your ground. You show no fear and you show no animosity, you simply stand your ground. You don’t escalate the situation, but neither do you cower from further assault: You stand your ground. There’s no compromise involved, no tolerance for wrong-doing, just quiet strength in the face of evil.

That’s what Jesus meant when he taught us to turn the other cheek.

I had an opportunity to test this out in real life a few weeks ago. I’d gone into a store to buy some chips. I don’t as a rule eat chips anymore, except for one day a week when all healthy food rules fall by the wayside and I eat what I want. So there I was, getting my weekly bag of chips and feeling rather chipper (lol groan) about it. I am not ashamed to say that I can at times be very food-motivated, especially when it comes to tasty treats.

I was next in line from being served at the cash register when I noticed that the guy in front of me had about 20 items to ring through, which meant it was going to be at least another minute before it was my turn. So I thought I might as well make use of that time to grab a second bag of chips to have on hand for next week’s junkfoodapalooza.

I had brought my own personal shopping cart with me into the store. My cart was heavily laden with items I’d bought at other stores. I left it in line to hold my place while I walked the few paces to get the second bag of chips, and then I retraced my steps to get back into the line. The whole process of leaving the line and getting back into it took less than 10 seconds.  However, when I went to rejoin the line, I saw that the guy behind me had pushed my cart to the side and was standing where I had been standing.

He’d stolen my place in line.

There were about a dozen people waiting for their turn at the cash register at that point. The guy with the ~20 items had just finished having his things run through, but now he seemed to be having problems with his payment. The manager was being called over the loudspeaker. So my ten-second dash to get a second bag of chips had not caused any hold-up in the movement of the line whatsoever. However, the guy behind me didn’t see it that way.

“You left the line, so you lost your place.”

“No,” I said. “I left my cart here to hold my place.”

“A cart can’t hold a place. It’s not a human. Only a human can hold a place in line.”

At that point, I figured the guy must be joking, so I started to laugh. He stared at me, stony-faced.

So I said: “You’re joking, right?”

“No, I’m not joking. You lost your place in line.”

That’s when the guy behind him chimed in.

“Actually, you need to get to the back of the line.”

I looked at them both and saw only cold disdain in their eyes. I had never before experienced anything like this at a store. The guys were probably in their early thirties, which meant I was old enough to be their mother. I was the elder in the situation. Pushing my cart out of the way and barking at me to get to the back of the line was not how you treat an elder, and definitely not how you treat a woman.

Not in Canada.

The guy at the cash register was still having problems with his payment. I looked at my chips and I looked at the guys behind me, and I thought “I don’t need this BS. I might as well just go.”

So I put the two bags of chips on the table in front of the cash register, preparing to walk out the door. That’s when the second guy picked up one of the bags and flung it down the aisle. The violence of his movement jolted me out of my complacence and I decided then and there that wasn’t going to be pushed around. The argument that only a human could hold a place in line was specious at best (what about people who drape a jacket over a seat at the cinema to hold a place for their friend?). At root, what was going on was bullying. I was being bullied and I didn’t accept it.

So I picked up the bag of chips I’d just placed on the table and remained where I’d been standing. At that instant, the manager behind the counter called “Next!”, and I walked up to pay for the chips. I told her that I would pay for two bags, even though I only had one with me. I told her I would get the second bag on my way out (the chip rack was next to the door). So she rang up two bags of chips, I paid for them, and I took my receipt.

In leaving, I turned around to the guys who’d treated me so despitefully, and I pleasantly and pointedly wished them a good day.

This, my friends, is a real-life example of turning the other cheek. Yes, it may seem trivial to do it over a place in line and a few bags of chips, but it’s good practice for when I need to apply it to more serious matters.

Certainly, I could have left the store when the guys started bullying me. I could have argued with them and thrown their rudeness back in their face. Or I could have caved to them and slunk to the back of the line so as not to cause any problems. But what would that have achieved? The bullies would have won.

I was not wrong that a personal cart full of personal belongings can hold a place in line. In leaving for a few seconds to get the chips, I had not caused any slow-down in the proceedings. I had not disturbed the holy order of shopping. There was no reason for me to go to the back of the line, just as there was no reason for the guys to bully me, other than that they saw what they thought was an easy mark, a pushover.

Boy, did they think wrong.

I did not fight with them. I did not argue with them. I just politely pointed out the obvious (that a personal shopping cart full of personal belongings can indeed hold a place in line). I let them rail at me and did not respond in kind. And after my initial impulse of wanting to leave (which was motivated by my shock at their rudeness, more than anything), I’m happy to report that I was able to successfully practice turning the other cheek in real life: I stood my ground. I kept my place in line. I did not return evil with evil.

And I got my chips. (Both bags!)

Win-win-win-win. 😀