“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…..