“Turn The Other Cheek” (Matthew 5:38-40)
Jesus said “When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to
him as well.” Did Jesus mean that we should allow others to bully us? NO!
In the culture of Jesus’ day, and in many Eastern Cultures even today, the right
hand is considered clean, and is used for ‘clean’ activities, such as eating. The left
hand is used for other things, and is considered ‘unclean’. ( I won’t elaborate!)
When a person struck someone, it was done with the back of their hand. In this
case, Jesus is very specific. The person who is struck is hit on their ‘right cheek’.
This means that the bully used the back of their right hand to strike. This would be
the common method of striking someone, using the ‘clean’ hand.
By telling his audience to ‘turn the other cheek’, Jesus was not telling his listeners
to be passive. Jesus was telling them not to retaliate by returning violence for
violence. Instead, stand your ground and challenge the bully by turning your head
and inviting them to strike you on the left cheek, forcing them the use the back of
their unclean hand. This would have been an inappropriate use of that left hand
according to their culture, and would create a dilemma for the bully.
So, you see, Jesus wasn’t telling his listeners, and us, to acquiesce to injustice.
Jesus was encouraging us to refuse to cooperate with violence, and to challenge
an injustice by using a creative response.
Bishop Robert Baron told a story to illustrate this response. Bishop Desmond
TuTu of South Africa was walking along a narrow sidewalk, when a white man
approached. He told Bishop TuTu, “Get off the sidewalk. I don’t make way for
gorillas.” The Bishop quickly moved aside and replied, “I do!”
Let’s ponder and pray about Jesus’ words, and how we might respond whenever
we have the opportunity to ‘turn the other cheek’
In Christ’s Peace…..
3/16/2021 11:02:52 am
Thank you for this, it makes so much sense...i knew Jesus didn't mean for his children to be mere punching bags
Barbara M. Garnaut
1/9/2022 09:09:46 am
Thank you for sharing! Well said and spot on, Wendy.
Barbara M. Garnaut
1/9/2022 09:07:33 am
Thank you very much indeed, Carol, Your article has channeled to me the strength and courage of Jesus, His Actual Grace, to stand up to bullying and spiritual abuse precisely where I should and am called to by Jesus to be and to do.
1/13/2022 09:52:19 pm
Sorry...but for me this is cleary not the "deeper meaning" of the words of jesus.
1/21/2022 10:58:32 am
I came to this blog while looking for an explanation I had heard of "turn the other cheek" before, which was not the same as this explanation (it hinges on "Roman slapping etiquette" rather than Eastern hygiene customs). I found the explanation here: https://www.reenactingtheway.com/blog/turning-the-other-cheek-jesus-peaceful-plan-to-challenge-injustice
3/12/2022 12:57:52 pm
Hello all I thought this was pretty cool info about standing up for justice. I agree Jesus is not telling us to be passive. He did give us authority over snakes and scorpions and dominion over all the enemy! Have a quick question, when I looked up Jewish culture articles I didn't find anything about the hands. Could you please reference your Jewish source? I would appreciate it! We are all learning God's Word together God Bless!❤
3/22/2022 01:23:13 pm
My "Jewish source" is not a written publication. I learned this through experience while in the Holy Land in 2019. Some close friends from the Far East also confirmed this is a cultural norm in their homeland as well.
4/30/2022 07:47:02 pm
Look up the Jewish Rabbi Maimonides and see that this was something that if the person was struck anywhere on the head - a fine was imposed on the person doing the striking. Double if struck with the palm of the hand. Also Act 23:2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
5/4/2022 09:08:31 pm
Thought there would have been a little more to the explanation of this verse. The answer given focused on an ancient cultural application and how it would have been easily comprehended back in first century Israel. In the Gospels we read that Jesus was horribly beaten, struck repeatedly and treated terribly at His crucifixion yet even still, He prayed for His tormentors. No mention in the essay of any wider application or deeper insight for contemporary readers contending with the modern era.
Barbara M. Garnaut
7/15/2022 05:26:24 am
If I look at Jesus, He called a spade a spade: "Go tell that Fox" ... "Brood of Vipers" ... "Whited sepulchres" And in driving the money sellers from the Temple, He seemed to drop His bundle completely - had enough, fed up, lost His Cool.
8/5/2022 06:12:55 am
My father gave me this advice frequently. In fact it was just about the only advice I can remember him giving me. It turned me into a ready-made victim. The modern view is that you stand up to bullies - it's almost a social responsibility. How does the Bishop know that, emboldened by his physical success, the person who he allowed to force him off the sidewalk (yes that's right - he allowed himself to be forced off) did not go on to do worse to the next person of colour? Allowing bullies to have their way is a poor example to set and does nothing for others. Putin, Crimea, Ukraine comes to mind. We don't live in the world of the Bible and it's not a good idea to walk quietly into the gas chamber.
10/7/2022 01:48:45 pm
What about 2 Corinthians 11:19-20? It mentions specifically a slap in the face as something not to be tolerated.
12/13/2022 07:43:18 am
Paul is being sarcastic like in 1 Cor 4; he's saying that they consider themselves so wise that they will tolerate the lunacy of those morally worse off than they are....kind of like what is going on in society right now.
Leave a Reply.