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The Benefits Of Turning The Other Cheek
I confess I really enjoy hitting Twitter early in the morning. I am always looking for the latest news, story ideas, and information from my news feed. One day, I opened the page and saw that one of my many followers had sent me a message. When I clicked on it, my jaw dropped. The message was short: “f--- u.”
I was totally bewildered. This person followed me on Twitter, but was a total stranger to me. As far as I knew, we had never communicated before. When I checked out the lady's page, the postings there were typical of people who followed my tweets. When I took a second look at my profile, there did not seem to be any postings that would provoke that kind of message.
I was shocked and then angry. Yes, as a Christian I hate swear words. Even before I became a person of faith, however, I hated vulgar, crude language that I felt degraded the natural functions of the body. I felt righteous indignation and wanted to formulate a "how dare you" response. In the end, I choose not to respond and blocked her from messaging me again. I chose to turn the other cheek.
I have heard quite a number of media and personal stories lately that show that most people would choose to retaliate with a nasty comment. Then the people who posted the original "flame" respond and the situation escalates into name-calling, hurtful remarks, and hate pages on social media. Both people start to feel like victims and rally others to rage with them. Then the situation turns into a war between people who may not even know each other and have probably never met. The term “flame” for an abusive email is appropriate because it can quickly change into a raging fire.
I chose to do what I feel that Jesus would have done in some situations – turning the other cheek by not reacting, forgiving them for ruining my happy mood and assaulting me verbally, and pray for the person. It is not an easy thing to do, but sometimes, it is the only way to keep the peace.
Jesus' teachings about turning the other cheek are found in Matthew 5:38-40 and Luke 6:29. He said:
- Do not resist an evil person
- If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek to them as well
- If someone sues you and takes your shirt, hand over your coat as well
- If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them
What Jesus taught
The teaching is contrary to how our society responds to offenses. We are expected to make a clever response that will cut the person down to size with cruel and sarcastic words. We are told that we should take people to court in some circumstances or take revenge in other ways. The Christian faith, however, teaches that we should live peaceably among all men and leave vengeance to God (Romans 12:19).
Turning the other cheek is misunderstood
Some people interpret this principle as meaning that Christians are supposed to be wimps that should continually take abuse from others. This is not what turning the other cheek means. Jesus himself did denounce the Pharisees who verbally attacked Him (Matthew 23) and objected to being struck by one of the officers or the high priest (John 18:22-23). Jesus told his disciples not to worry about having the right words to say when confronted by their enemies because He will provide the words for the occasion.
When we look at the examples that Jesus outlined, it seems this principle applies only to our response to one specific situation. Turning the other cheek does not mean we should submit ourselves to abuse. We have the right to defend ourselves if someone is physically assaulting us, for example.
Sometimes, though, our retaliation will not change the situation for the better, and will just make things worse. If we slap someone after they slap us, anger will escalate and probably explode into a fight that will harm us.
Jesus recommends a course of action when enemies hurt us (Luke 6:27-29):
- Love our enemies
- Do good to the people that hate us
- Bless the people who hate us
- Pray for people who abuse us
- Turn the other cheek in certain situations
In some circumstances, we have no control over the other person. We have no choice but to turn the cheek, hand over our coats, carry the burdens required of us, or do whatever the equivalent of the Roman soldier is in our lives tells us to do. There are dire consequences if we do not comply at the time. A Roman soldier type can beat us up, throw us in jail, or kill us.
Benefits of turning the other cheek
Defuses a potentially harmful situation: If someone slaps us, it is usually because they are angry with us. If we turn the other cheek, they may calm down. Sometimes people attack in an attempt to aggravate people and start a fight. Fighting takes two.
Gives us a special blessing: We are blessed by God if we do not retaliate in situations where we do not deserve the suffering heaped upon us (1 Peter 2:18-20). We are commended if we endure through the situation.
Helps us to keep emotions in check: I was so angry at first at the email I received and thought of nasty retorts to the email I received at first. When I decided not to react, I was able to keep my feelings under control and let go of anger. I could forgive the person and forget about them. I was released to get on with my day.
Shows love to the other person: We are demonstrating the love of God by not fighting back or taking vengeance. Jesus commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves.
Acknowledges we are not in control: If someone pulls out a gun and demands our money, we are not in control of the situation. In Jesus's day, a Roman could demand your coat or that you carry a burden. We often have no choice whether or not to comply with demands on us.
Leaves vengeance to the Lord: We are to give water to the thirsty and bread to the hungry, even if they are our enemies (Proverbs 15:21).
In the end, turning the other cheek is a choice in response to a specific situation. There are appropriate times to be silent as well as to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7). These situations are usually unfair and maddening, but using this principle can keep us safe from harm, both emotional and physical.
God commends us if we can bear the pain of unjust suffering and endure suffering for doing the right thing. When we do not retaliate, we show God's love to those who persecute us.
© 2016 Carola Finch