“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. ’But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.” – Matthew 5:38-39.
How well do we understand the “turn the other cheek” verse in Matthew 5? This passage has been relegated to the the following spiritual dynamic: be a good servant, be generous with your time, don’t fight back, put your head down, be quiet, don’t make a scene, and don’t fight back if people take advantage of you. What we are taught to do is to be forgiving, loving and to kill others with kindness. The turn there other cheek passage can easily be misconstrued as being a pushover, a doormat. Jesus is not saying be passive. And He is definitely not saying violently resist. He is saying that there is another way, a kind of non-violent resistance.
I believe when the Bible tells us to turn the other cheek it means just that. It, however, does not tell us to cower or turn and run away. It says to stand there in the face of whoever it may be that keeps delivering blows to you. When Jesus and His Apostles “turned the other cheek”, it was not in weakness, but rather an act of defiance in the face of persecution. Paul’s example is perhaps the best we have: Acts 23:1-7 says: “Gazing intently at the high council, Paul began: “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!” Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?” Those standing near Paul said to him, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?” “I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest,” Paul replied, “for the Scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any of your rulers. Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!” This divided the council—the Pharisees against the Sadducees…”
There is no easy short explanation on how and when to turn the other cheek. Nor are there any quick answers. So how do we live this kind of life in the world? The reality is that we can’t sit down and work out every situation we face. But we can face all of them with the same attitude. An attitude that is willing to resist evil. An attitude that is willing to take hurt, risk ridicule and disadvantage ourselves to resist evil and to glorify God. An attitude that is unwilling to stoop to evil’s level. An attitude that is determined to follow Jesus. An attitude that loves the evil doer and is willing to love and accept the person, while doing all we can oppose their actions. All of these are not easy options. It’s challenging and worthwhile, but it is not easy.
- Read Matthew 5:38-42: What is accomplished by turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, or giving your “cloak”?
- How do you typically react to an observed injustice? What is your instinct when you have been wronged?
- Who do you find most difficult to love? Why?
- How can we apply this week’s message to our lives?