Imagine what Julio felt like when a teenager jumped out from the dark shadows holding a knife; this young social worker stood startled in the Bronx.
Julio simply wanted something to eat from his favourite restaurant. He handed over his wallet, and the kid turned and started to run off.
“Wait,” Julio cried; “if you are going to be mugging people for the rest of the evening, take my coat as well, to keep yourself warm.”
“Why are you doing this?” the youth asked.
“Well, if you are going to risk your freedom for a few small dollars, you must want the cash. All I wanted to do was get dinner, join me; you are welcome,” Julio offered.
Moments later, the two were seated, eagerly greeted by the waiter, manager, and dishwasher.
“You are nice to everyone. Do you own this place?” the kid asked.
“Have you not been taught that you should be kind to everyone?”
“Yes, but I did not think people did that.”
The bill arrived after eating and talking, but Julio no longer had his wallet; the youth was holding it.
“Look, you need to pay for it as you have my wallet now, but if you give it back, I’ll gladly buy you dinner.”
Julio paid the bill and gave the stunned youth $20. On one condition... that he handed over his blade.
The youth agreed.
This modern Good Samaritan story became famous.
When asked by a journalist why he responded in this way to his mugger, his response was inspiring.
“I guess I believe that if you treat people in the right way, they will treat you right in return.”
Powerful words that reflect the redemptive nature of Christ. The story demonstrates the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Chapter 5:38-42.
“You have heard that it said, ‘Eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
What happens when we greet anger with love and assume the best, not the worst, of people?
Are we capable of turning the other cheek, and can it apply today with all our pressures and irritations?
Let’s try it.
Many of us will never be mugged, but we do meet harsh unkind words; COVID-19 rage may come our way, whether through opinions on masks, not following arrows or tangible fear.
Let’s turn the metaphorical cheek and see the change.
Phil Collins is pastor at Willow Park Church in Kelowna.