Skip to main content

Not Treating Others as Their Sins Deserve

            Turning the other cheek has become a Christian cliché.  These beautiful and penetrating words of Jesus are minimized when we humans try to apply them without God.  The best we can do to achieve Jesus’ description in our power is repress our anger about the way someone sins against us.  This only serves to make us look stupid to the world, creates ulcers, or causes an unplanned, embarrassing, public explosion of anger.  Jesus spoke these words and many others like them to invoke the spiritual understanding that it is impossible to live out His directions for our lives without Him.  He has no intention of our trying to take His work on in our flesh.

            It happens all the time in marriages and other relationships where one person who thinks they need to be a certain way to please God centers his or her relationships around keeping peace.  I don’t believe that kind of turning the other cheek is very pleasing to God. 

            No, God is inviting us to godlike actions when He speaks these words.  Psalm 103:10 describes God this way; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  He does not say that he does not know our sins, feel the pain of our sins, or find our sins repulsive.  He does say that He is the God who does not treat us as our sins deserve.

            I love how this incredible truth is demonstrated in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.  At the beginning of the novel Jean Valjean steals valuable silver from a saintly priest, the only human being who has offered an ounce of kindness to Valjean’s since his release from prison.  When the police catch Valjean red-handed and bring him to the priest, the priest does not treat him as his sins deserve; rather the priest tells the guards that he gave Valjean the silver and offers him more.  The priest tells Valjean that he has bought his soul for God and sends him back into the world to live out his life as a transformed man. 

            This is what Jesus was describing.  There is no doubt between Valjean and the priest that Valjean is a sinner and that he committed an immoral crime against a holy man.  However, the priest was so transformed by his relationship with God that he could not escape the incredible joy of being loved rather than treated as his sins deserved.  He passed that spiritual experience on to Valjean.

            Hugo’s story leaves the priest at this point and focuses on Valjean.  His long, slow struggle for human transformation makes for a better novel.  However, the deeper likeness to God his Maker as seen in the actions of the priest, is an even greater transformation story than Valjean’s in my opinion.  Human souls are more deeply connected to God when they do not treat others as their sins deserve.  The soul steps up to a higher level of spiritual experience.  This is not the case of one who simply represses or denies negative feelings to turn the other cheek. 

            If you ever do not treat another person as their sins deserve through the power of the spirit of God (the only way to truly do so), you will discover a deeper oneness with God.  It’s not an experience that you can base an interesting novel on, but it is an experience that your soul longs to know.  You see, when you do not treat another person as their sins deserve, you are living out the image of God buried deep inside your fleshly cravings for revenge.  For an instant your soul is infused with glory and wonder and a taste of how God originally created you.

Copyright © 2013.  Deborah R. Newman  All Rights Reserved.


  1. Thanks, Debbie. So hard sometimes... actually, as you say, impossible in ourselves.

  2. It is a hard journey to lay down your flesh in these matters--but so well worth it when you get there!
    St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews 10:32-38

    Brethren, recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. "For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; but my righteous one shall live by faith."


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Thank You Dad

Recently I have been contemplating why it is ingrained in me that I must be quiet and respectful and look at the flag when the national anthem is played.  It’s as natural for me as standing for the Hallelujah Chorus during Handel’s Messiah or for the Bride when she walks through the back door.  Like a Pavlov dog, my instincts go into action, and I do not even think about my somewhat conditioned response. Why?  It was definitely my own father who had the most influence over me regarding the national anthem.  I am not a sports enthusiast.  However, from a young age I found myself at sports games because my older brother played every sport offered.  Our family faithfully attended those games, which normally started with the national anthem.  I found a way to enjoy the otherwise agonizing experience of being held prisoner to my brother’s sporting events by gravitating to my friends who were there under duress as well.  We made up games of our own; we would laugh and talk throughout the q…

You Shall Not Be Overcome

I distinctly remember sending this quote by Julian of Norwich to a recently widowed friend of mine over ten years ago.  You will not be overcome.
God did not say you will not be troubled,
You will not be belaboured,
You will not be disquieted;
But God said, You will not be overcome.
The quote in one of my devotional books for July 23, which marks the day I became a widow myself is by the same author.  “One day God spoke to me and I heard these words, “you won’t be overcome.”  God wants us to pay attention to His words.  God wants us to be strong in our certainty in Him, always, both in good times and in bad.  The Lord loves us, and God so enjoys our company.  God loves being with us and wants us to love Him and enjoy being with Him and trust Him completely, and all will be well.”  As I write this six years since his death I can attest to the reality that all will be well.  God chose to bless me with a second marriage to a wonderful man who holds my hand through this hur…

The Worst

What is the worst thing you think could happen to you?  There are so many options in a fallen world that it is hard to consider the worst.  We try not to think about it.  We do think we are going through the worst thing when we lose a loved one, are betrayed by a friend or family, sent to prison, or become the victim of a crime.  You know the worst thing that has happened to you.  You can think of someone for whom you are grateful that what happened to that person didn’t happen to you.               The world is full of frightening and dreaded options of worst case scenarios.  When you read the Bible, it is not hard to decide what the worst thing that could happen in your lifetime would be.  The Bible makes it clear that the worst is that you do not believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and be saved.               That sounds like a Sunday School answer doesn’t it?  It doesn’t feel that bad to say “No Thank You” to God.  Many don’t even recognize the day that they to…