The bible is full of well meaning but out of touch advice. It also has some extremely bad advice, advice that is libel to open you up to all sorts of abuse. One of the worst pieces of advice in the bible?
"Bless those who persecute you." Rom 12:14
In many ways, this seems like good Christian advice. If someone wrongs us, don’t do what worldly people would do and take revenge. Instead, do the exact opposite and shock and surprise them with your Christian kindness. Turn the other cheek! Let them reap burning coals upon their head (v20... seems vindictive doesn’t it?). Let yourself be a witness to God’s love.
In some cases, it does work and an enemy can become your friend. I had that happen to me once in my life. But on the other hand it can open you up to further abuse, which is more likely to be the case.
I can remember some times in my life where I really tried to be the good Christian, listening to my mother’s well meaning, but out of touch advice to be nice even to those who aren’t nice to you.
At the age of about eight I had a classmate who often picked on me and it was just my luck he was seated next to me each day. We used to have “Jotter Pad” books, where we would tear out a leaf and do written exercises on. One day he came to school and he had no paper left. I kindly gave him sheets of paper whenever he asked, doing my best to do what Jesus and my mother would have wanted me to do.
For a few days, I continually gave him paper, feeling good about doing it, especially considering temporarily, he wasn’t bullying me. One day I decided to do a real Christian thing and offered him my Jotter Pad, saying he could keep hold of it and I would just take paper as I needed it. The next day I came to school and asked him for a sheet of my paper and he turned to me, glared at me and said “No! It’s mine!”
So much for that Godly advice.
Now, I often think back about that and wonder why God would have allowed something like that to happen to an eight year old who truly believed they were doing a good Christian deed for someone.
I can also remember well another incident several years later as a young teenager. Every two weeks I would mow the lawns of a middle aged couple from church. It was great because I’d walk away with ten dollars cash each time, which was a fortune for a guy who only got a dollar a week pocket money.
One of the things I loved to do was go to the shop and buy a whole packet of chocolate biscuits. Yet another luxury for a boy who only got the occasional chocolate biscuit in his lunch. I rode home on my bike, holding the open packet in my hand, munching on one, when I rode by a group of four older bullies from school, standing on the side of the road.
One of them called out “Hey man, give us a biscuit!”
I'm sure you can anticipate the outcome of this one, because you know what bullies are like. I was going to ride on, but at the last moment the good Christian in me decided that giving up four biscuits was no big deal and it would be an opportunity to bless my enemies, so I turned around and offered them one. Each boy took three each, leaving me with about two or three left in the packet.
I began to learn that there are certain people in this world that no matter how much Christian charity you give them, they will take advantage of you. I even had a hapless Christian friend who didn't have his own computer and he really wanted to get one. I'd just purchased a new one so sold him my old one for 50 bucks, way less than what it was worth. I thought I was doing him a favour. A few weeks later he'd sold it on to someone else at a profit! Wow, he wasn't even my enemy, but there are some people out there who have no problem abusing charity and there are even some who go from church to church with sob stories about how hard their lives are, just so they can get it. And when the church gets wise, they move on to the next church. My hapless friend was always looking for handouts and even bragged once that my taxes had helped him pay for his new car.
I can’t say I became hard hearted because of my experiences with bullies, users and crooks, because I didn’t. I was happy to help people if they were in need. But I learnt a valuable lesson about these sort of people. With bullies in particular, you cannot be passive. If they see a weakness they will exploit it. Generally, it is not wise to “turn the other cheek” and blessing those who curse you is not always a sensible idea.