Turn the Other Cheek

No one likes to be hurt or taken advantage of. Jesus was betrayed, lied to and denied many times. Yet, He still chose to respond in love. Sinful nature seeks revenge. God’s nature seeks to repair. In the Bible, Jesus mentions to us twice to turn the other cheek.

Sinful nature seeks revenge. God's nature seeks to repair. Click To Tweet

In Matthew 5:38-39, it says, “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evildoer. On the contrary, whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well,” and in Luke 6:29, “to one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.

I have tried to discover the real meaning of these scriptures for a very long time. It is inevitable that, at some point in our lives, we will encounter betrayal or mishaps with someone. At first sight, it appears that Jesus is telling us that no matter what is done to us, that we should look the other way. However, that is far from the truth.

Turning the other cheek does not mean you should allow yourself to be abused, taken advantage of or be disrespected. What this scripture has revealed to me is that it is not necessarily about being unresponsive when something is done to us. It’s about learning to deal with things without allowing our sinful nature to resort to revenge or retaliation.

To be kingdom minded does not mean we allow people to do whatever they want to us. It means we make room for God to handle the situation.

In John 18, Jesus shows us His response when an official of the high priest strikes him. Jesus asked the official to tell him what did he say that was untrue. In the Old Testament, David spared Saul’s life. In 1 Samuel 26:9-11, David demonstrates a way to respond that is honoring to God. He says, “. . . Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. . .

We are encouraged to bring forth a peaceful plan to challenge injustice. We cannot escape conflict, however, as Christians it is important for us to refrain from retaliation and seek reconciliation. We are to go above and beyond when people mistreat us. Jesus was dealing with legalistic and selfish people in Matthew 5. He focused on urging them to always go above and beyond what was expected and take the time to pay attention to what was going on internally, not just the external actions of those who do us wrong.

When Jesus preached His sermon on the mount, He wanted to correct the misunderstandings the people had of the commandments. They had heard the command, “thou shall not murder,” but they only saw it as the physical act and not the intention of the heart. His sermon challenged them. It challenges us to walk two miles with someone when the minimum was a mile. It challenges us to not only give our neighbor what they ask from us, but to also hand over our cloak to them. We are to do the opposite of what the world expects from us.

In essence, Jesus is saying if someone is being evil to you, you should refrain from doing evil in return. Jesus says again, if someone takes you to court to take something away from you, then let them have it and give the your cloak too. Jesus here explained the true understanding of God’s law regarding retribution, and how His kingdom transcends revenge.

In our society, we have developed our own ways of dealing with offense and injustice. We are not called to respond the way the rest of the world does. These moments of offense test our faith and willingness to trust God to take care of it.

Jesus never asked of His followers anything that He has not Himself already done for them. Jesus not only offered His other cheek. He offered His hands, His feet and His entire body to be nailed on the cross and die. When Jesus’ clothes were divided up by the Roman soldiers, Jesus did not respond by demanding them to return his clothes. Instead, He died in their place and now offers a robe of righteousness for anyone who would trust in Him.

As Jesus was led away to be crucified alongside two other men who were criminals, He willingly goes the extra mile and walks into the painful process of dying on the cross for our sin and all the times we responded with anger, lust, lies and revenge. We see that Jesus is the one who is forsaken so that we may be forgiven and not just forgiven, but have His spirit in our hearts so we can stand less on our own rights and more on the peace and reconciliation that Jesus speaks about on the Mount in Matthew 5.

As we continue in our Christian walk, let us remember what Jesus has done for us first. We have forgiveness in Him. His Spirit is working in us. These commands that have been given to us are not about earning our way into the kingdom of heaven. It’s for us who already belong to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is asking us to follow in His footsteps as He enables us to be more Christlike in all we do.

It takes boldness to do things differently. To make other people’s lives better regardless if they like us or wish evil on us. It takes the love of God to respond to your enemies with love when they hate you. When you are insulted, you have the right to remain silent. May we be generous in grace, forgiveness and love when it is most difficult for us just as Jesus has been so generous to us. In your obedience, I believe the Lord will honor and bless you.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Matthew 5:9

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink”

Proverbs 25:21

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

1 Peter 3:9