Turning the Other Cheek
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you (Matthew 5: 38-42).
After reading this passage, people are perplexed by the thought, that this teaching is too difficult. They misinterpret this passage and come to the conclusion that, it is hard to live a Christian life. Let me tell you the truth, life is hard if you are not a Christian. In fact, without Christ, life is miserable, doomed, lost and without hope.
The statement, do not resist the one who is evil, seems frightening. How can one allow evil? Does it mean, if someone wants to murder you, you offer no resistance and allow the psychopath to have his way? If a thief steals your car, do you give him your house keys as well? If a hijacker makes you go those extra miles, do you offer to take him on a world tour as well? No, this is not Christianity, it is called insanity.
Christians are not called to be pacifists or lawless. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them (Matthew 5:17). In situations that calls us to defend ourselves, we should do everything we can to defend ourselves and survive. When we are to fight in a war, it is our duty to do so. It is our right to protect our belongings and property from perpetrators. We need to be discerning and refuse to give into the demands of people who are manipulative and would take advantage of us.
What does it mean, to offer someone the other cheek? It means that we do not retaliate and hurt anyone in return or take revenge, but instead go the extra mile and overcome evil with good. Let me give you the example of King David, how he did not resist evil and offered his other cheek to someone who was ready to smite him.
David, as we know, was a man after God’s own heart. He was a man that pleased God. David was a shepherd boy that killed Goliath and was victorious in wars and soon became very famous and was a hero and favoured by the Israelites. This caused King Saul to become jealous of David and he sought to kill him.
David hid in a cave and lived in the wilderness to protect himself from Saul’s jealousy. Saul kept pursuing to kill David and one day came to the same cave that David was hiding. David had the perfect opportunity to kill Saul at that time, but he did not. David refused to harm the Lord anointed, instead he waited for God to intervene in his situation.
Eventually King Saul’s army was defeated and he killed himself by falling on his own sword. When the news of Saul’s death reached David, he did not rejoice over the death and defeat of his enemy. Instead he mourned for Saul, the man who caused him grief and exile. David went the extra mile to do a favour on Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul, who was Saul’s only surviving relative.
David was a man who loved his enemy, he overcame evil with good. David did not allow Saul to kill him, nor did he avenge himself. He waited on God’s judgement. He mourned for Saul and displayed kindness to Mephibosheth. Loving our enemy does not mean allowing our enemy to kill, harm or oppress us. It means to forgive them, doing good to them, praying for them and blessing them.
What would Jesus do, if He was slapped by someone? How would He offer the other cheek? In John 18: 22-23, we read that Jesus protested when He was slapped on the cheek by the temple guard. When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Jesus did not slap the guard in return, but He did not remain silent either. He questioned the guard who slapped Him, as to what his motive was?
We too are to follow Jesus’s example, by confronting people who strike us or wrong us? Confrontation directed to the objective of gaining understanding of people’s motives and working towards reconciliation is necessary. Confrontation leads people towards righteousness, harmony, peace and restores broken and severed relationships. It may not always resolve all issues, but we have an obligation to correct those that are wrong, with gentleness and love, so that we may be imitators of God.
There may be times when we may have to walk away from the situation, to avoid trouble, just like Jesus did, when the people wanted to throw Him from the cliff. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way (Luke 4:29-30).
There will be times, when you may have to remain silent. When the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent (Matthew 27:12). He remained silent in this instance, because it was the will of His Father to endure the suffering. He did not defend Himself, but obediently died on the cross.
There will be times, when you have to wait upon the Lord for Him to defend you and deliver you. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).
At all times, do what is right and pleasing in the sight of God. Offering someone the other cheek means focusing on love and not on revenge. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).