What should I do when someone attacks my faith? Obviously striking back is not an option (Luke 6:29), and Jesus did warn that the world would not think highly of Christians (John 15:18-20), even to the point of being turned upon by one’s own family (Matthew 10:34-38). That’s all good in theory, but in real life being slapped in the face is painful and intentionally placing myself as the target for a second shot is not what I want to do at all. What I want to do is to either hit back or run away (or hit back and then run!). What I actually ended up doing was nothing much because I was too angry to trust myself to say anything so I did end up walking away from the ‘conversation’.
Certainly there have been times when people have mocked my faith and I have stoically accepted the mockery without flinching. But in those cases the person mocking me was not close to me or in any way a significant character in my life, so frankly I was not particularly concerned what they might think about what I believe. I’m not so stoic, however, when a person whose opinion can deeply affect me tells me that the foundation upon which I have built my life is worthless. My mind is saying, “that’s not true, don’t take it to heart”. My heart, on the other hand, is feeling completely gutted that this person could think in this way. Against even my own better judgment I find myself wondering if perhaps they are right? Maybe I truly am a fool for believing? (1 Corinthians 15:19).
In time I cool off a little, I find a space in which to open the Bible and renew my mind. The initial (immature) reaction of never wanting to see that person again subsides and grace wriggles in through cracks in my angry sullenness. It still hurts knowing that those few words reveal a heart attitude fundamentally opposed to the core of who I am - how do you relate to someone you should respect and honour when they disdain all that you value? I don’t know. It will take grace in very large measures, something I don’t have within myself.
What I do know is that I should pay greater attention to what I read in the Bible: while it was easy to recall the verse about turning the other cheek, it is the six words immediately preceding Luke 6:29 that I most need: “pray for those who abuse you.” My not knowing how to respond to the situation is fine, my not having grace sufficient to the task is also fine, all I need is to pray. God is wisdom and grace, He has all I need and all I need to have is the humility of a child to ask and receive His equipping for the response He demands of me.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.”
(Luke 6:27-29 ESV)