Turn the Other Cheek

Pastor DaronCrossLife Blog

There are a few problems to resolve with this statement of Jesus. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:38-41).

First, Jesus isn’t establishing a new law here. 

If I’m kidnapped by some bad guys who beat me up and throw me in the back seat of their car, I’ll do my best to open the back door and jump out—whether we’ve traveled a mile or a couple blocks. Jesus isn’t forbidding that. 

If your fourth-grade son is bullied, he has the right and the option to defend himself. Even physically, if done appropriately. Jesus isn’t forbidding that. 

Second, Jesus is actually correcting a problem. Religious leaders had misapplied this law of God which was on the books in the Old Testament: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” 

This law was given in three specific legal situations in the Old Testament, and not intended to be an everyday law that forces everyone to retaliate for every injustice. It actually sought to limit excessive, rage-induced retaliation. 

But religious leaders pushed this law beyond limit, and getting along with your neighbor became too law-based and not love-based. 

So Jesus issues this teaching in his Sermon on the Mount that seeks to restore the love in relationships. Laws aren’t bad or ungodly, but Jesus doesn’t want laws to dominate our relationship with him, or with others. He goes on to say, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). 

Finally, the biggest problem is our own resistance to these teachings of Jesus about love. From our inner, sinful self we look immediately for loopholes and excuses instead of turning the other cheek. Because we love the idea of revenge. It’s natural to hurt someone who has hurt us. 

The snarky Facebook post to put in their place whoever disagrees with your politics. Making life miserable for an ex-spouse. Giving the cold shoulder to a friend who wasn’t acting like a friend. Tailgating the idiot on the road who cut you off. Take that!

And then there’s Jesus. He turned the other cheek when Judas betrayed him, religious leaders slapped him, and soldiers beat him. He gave up his clothes when the soldiers stripped him before crucifying him. He walked miles and miles to save and heal and teach those whose sins hurt him. 

By his love, Jesus saved you. He took upon himself the revenge of God’s justice and suffered that price in your place. You are forgiven! You are loved!

Go now. Love someone today who doesn’t deserve it. 

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for turning the other cheek and saving me from my unloving sins and selfishness. Lead me in the ways of your love to go the extra mile for others and show them your mercy. Amen.

EVANGELISM ACTION: Do you want to reach people for Jesus? Then act more like Jesus. Pray for more awareness here. Who are your “enemies” whom you can better love? How can you start this week? It’s a powerful witness!