Turn 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 an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Matthew 5:38-39
The fifth chapter of Matthew is one of the clearest summaries between the Old Testament law and Jesus being the true fulfillment of the law. Six times in chapter five Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said…. but I say to you.” The contrast between the Pharisees and the Kingdom of God was much more than a rule…...it was an attitude that reflected the true heart of God. In fact, Jesus went on to say to these Pharisees in verse 20 that their righteousness would not gain them entrance into the coming Kingdom.
In chapter five we find the fifth example of changes that Jesus pointed out of how things would be done differently in His Kingdom. The first principle of the verse 39 is not to repay evil with evil when Jesus says, “do not resist an evil person.” This is not saying to let evil run amuck while we sit idly by, or not protecting our family, or not exercising our religious freedom, however, it is saying we don’t fight evil with evil like the world does. The Old Testament law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth ‘was to set the limit of retaliation rather than give an open warrant for revenge.
Next Jesus says, “whoever slaps you on your right cheek.” A blow to the right cheek is usually given with the back of the hand. The interpretation of such a blow, is the ultimate insult. This is much more about wounding pride than one’s cheek. A physical blow heals on it own, however, a blow to the heart takes control and requires our willingness to release it to Jesus. Thankfully, Jesus modeled this principle on the cross for us. The suffering Jesus’ willingness to forgive all of us that put Him on the cross, is anything but retaliation…it is sacrificing of self. A spirit filled life is much bigger than the focus on us.
Finally, this passage says do not fight evil with evil, let go of the offense and now “turn the other cheek.” This is a tall order. Really it is an impossible order without Jesus, but that is just the point…. Jesus is teaching and showing us how to fulfill Kingdom principle and you cannot do it without knowing the King. In order “to turn the other cheek” means that we have not run away, and we are still standing. According to W. W. Wiershe, “Psychologists tell us that violence is born of weakness, not strength. Turning the other cheek demands both faith and love. It also means that we will be hurt, but it is better to be hurt on the outside than to be harmed on the inside. We are vulnerable, but also victorious because Jesus is on our side, helping us and building our character. It is the strong man who can love and suffer; it is the weak man who thinks only of himself and hurts others to protect himself.”
Matthew 5:38-39 is not addressing a weak, passive person that submits out of fear when he says,” turn the other cheek.” Jesus is talking to the disciple of Christ that’s identity is secure in Him with nothing personal to prove and embraces Kingdom values because of love for their King. Now, that is what is called a blessed person, indeed!
Pastor Ruth Kaunley