You’ve heard the saying.

You associate a feeling of hard work and bitterness to it – “I have to do this because it’s the right thing to do” *rolls eyes exasperatedly*.
Or maybe you feel like you’ve ‘turned the other cheek’ enough times, or that “this isn’t the type of situation Jesus was talking about.”

Let’s have a little ponder on this small phrase.

But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Matthew 5:39

I think, in a very brief summary, we have taken this phrase to mean: if someone does wrong to you, don’t retaliate.
Which, in some ways, is good advice. Things spoken in anger do have a habit of making any situation a whole lot worse.

You might have tried to argue and say, “if I turn the other cheek all the time, people will see me as a push-over. They’ll take advantage of me. They’ll see me as weak.” I can’t dispute what others may think about you, but I can assure you, that is not the intended outcome of this wonderful principle.

I had always viewed these words of Jesus as ‘good advice’.
Here are a few things I had traditionally found when reading this:

Always put your best foot forward

  • you know, show the “clean cheek”
  • focus on the positive, and not so much the negative

Even though you’ve been hurt, endeavour to give your best to those around you

  • again, we’re talking about presenting the clean cheek over the hurt one
  • it’s an opportunity to make sure your interactions with others are not negatively affected by the hurt from another

Be humble, patient

  • this is where the idea of not retaliating comes in, for me anyway – to have the “moral high ground”
  • it’s also where the idea of being perceived as weak can sneak in
  • in turning the other cheek, allowing whoever hurt us the chance to maybe do it again, is actually a mighty act of bravery
  • opening ourselves up to other people can be a perilous adventure, but it’s a beautiful opportunity to grow in patience, gentleness and love

And that is kind of where it stopped for me.
I used to think, “wow, what a great character to have!”
To be positive in the face of adversity? To not let those negative things affect the way you interact with those around you? And to show love in the presence of pain? Incredible qualities, that we could all aspire to develop!

And just to be clear, I think the idea of having the “moral high ground” is possibly one of the more selfish reasons to do something – you’re basically saying to yourself, “I wouldn’t be doing this, but it will make me a better person than them.”

But it was as my husband and I were driving in to work (a few weeks ago now), that I thought more about this principle of cheek-turning.
And some new ideas popped into my head – along with the ones mentioned before:

Especially to the one who hurt you, give them the best of you 

  • I had applied this to other people – showing them the best of you, focusing on the positive, and I had kind of forgotten the context of this whole statement
  • this is completely in relation to someone who has done you wrong – show them the other cheek
  • as I thought more about this, I thought, “that’s actually really hard!”
  • when we get hurt, our natural reaction can be to either lash out, or shrink back – either way, we don’t give the other person our best
  • this isn’t where you say, “yes, you can hurt me like that again and I’ll be okay with it”
  • it’s where you say within yourself, “that was not okay but I will not let it change my treatment of them for the worse”
  • a potentially hard, but valuable lesson

The next thought, floored me. I found it incredibly heart warming.

Don’t keep showing/reminding the person of how they hurt you.

  • Turn the other cheek; this way, it’s as though they never hurt you.
  • They get the chance to start over – a clean slate.
  • It’s not all about you
  • When we turn the other cheek, we’re not just developing our own character and showing love to the one who hurt us, we’re giving the other person the freedom to change
  • We stop condemning them for the hurt they caused us, and we allow them to realise that they can start over.

Seriously, how many of us have hurt someone, broken up with someone, done something wrong and have then proceeded to avoid the person/people/place?
Out of guilt, out of shame, out of fear of condemnation and rejection, we have distanced ourselves.

What if, instead of showing anger, hate and frustration, we showed love, patience and understanding?
What if, instead of reminding each other of how we’ve hurt one another, we became a safe place?
What if we truly turned the other cheek?

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