Turn The Other Cheek?

38  Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.   Matthew 5:38-48

Now, we respond to what Jesus said here in many ways.:

  • We might say: I can’t just stand there and let someone attack me and not fight back. My survival instincts  will take over. It is foolish not to try to defend yourself.We could think, I have to protect the things I worked for. No one can just come up and take what belongs to me without a fight.
  • Or we could say, and some commentators say that Jesus was speaking to a 1st century Jewish audience. He gave them the wise way to handle the abusive tactics of the Roman soldiers. He was teaching how to live in a godly, dignified way in the face of an oppressive state.
  • I might even say, I don’t understand what Jesus is saying. But I know this. No one is going to disrespect me. I can’t be a push over. I can’t be used and abused. I can’t be a doormat, a pushover, a punk, a weakling, a wuss. Lay a hand on me and draw back a nub
  • What is your reaction?

The issue Jesus raises here is in keeping  with the general message of the Sermon on the Mount. In the Kingdom of God there is a new paradigm of living. A new way of relating to others and to God. A radical change which is in opposition to the old way of life.

The old way of life which was dominated by the flesh– not the physical body, by flesh I mean the sinful nature, as the old-time black preachers used to say, the flush. In Hebrew, it is the  Yetzer ha-Ra. (evil inclination). The problem is that the flush does not want to relinquish control. The concept of life of the spirit the words, of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is foolishness to him.

But, what if Jesus meant what he said -literally? What if a child of God in the Kingdom of God is expected to turn the other cheek. To allow others to hurt us, cheat us and steal from us?

Let’s return to the Sermon on the mount where  Jesus says, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil:” The Greek word translated resist here can also mean stand against, withstand, oppose. (antihistemi). Example. We are told to Resist the Devil and he will flee. (James 4:7). It goes without saying -but I will say it anyway less I be misunderstood – obviously we are to resist Satan and his imps. But for as humanity  is concerned – and especially our brothers and sisters – there is another way.

Here is an example of the new way of thinking we should have. 1 Corinthians 6:7 Paul is talking about Christians suing Christians who wrong them. Paul says,

Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

Now in this,  Jesus  is our prime example. Here is what Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 2:19-23.

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21 For even here unto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:  1 Peter 2:19-23.

Paul says this in Romans 12:17-19
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

God does not want us to be punching bags: but we must. have faith in God. We must trust God.  There was an incident in Luke chapter 4: around the 18th verse. Jesus had given perhaps his inaugural message in his home church,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord

Jesus sensed their doubt and unbelief and he prophesied against them. The people became so angry they grabbed him, took him out of the city and  started to throw him off a cliff. Now Jesus didn’t say. “I will suffer thee to toss me off yon cliff. Yea though you toss me of yon cliff anon and breaketh my body, yet wilst I rise again. No it says in verse 30 that Jesus passed through their midst and went His way to the next town. It was not his time. God provided a way of escape for Jesus. And He will for us as well

1 Corinthians 10:13
13 There hath no temptation (testing, trial) taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.