“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.” Matthew 5:39
What did Jesus mean when He instructed us to turn the other cheek? Obviously Jesus does not condone physical abuse in any way whatsoever. But rather our hands were meant to bless, to pat someone on the back, to work hard, to shake someone’s hand, to hold the hand of the one you love, to lift up someone out of a ditch, to comfort someone who is broken, to hold your children, to lift your hands before God in worship. These are just some of the ways that we are supposed to use our hands.
Being slapped in the face by someone is very humiliating and condescending. I don’t think the point that Jesus was trying to get across to His followers was to only turn the other cheek “physically” but to also learn to turn the other cheek when someone hurts you, humiliates you, lies about you, is mean to you, hateful to you, etc., and your heart feels stunned as if you were just slapped in the face. I think you know what I mean. It’s that pain and hurt in your heart you feel when someone is wicked and sins against you.
But why turn the other cheek? Hurt for hurt. Pain for pain. Sin for sin. Humiliation for humiliation—it’s just not the Kingdom way. Look again at all of the physical and emotional abuse that Jesus endured on His way to the cross.
“When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped Him in the face…”John 18:22.
Jesus had to turn the other cheek just like He asks us to do.
Here’s why Jesus could turn the other cheek and how we can do the same. Jesus lived in such a way that His love, confidence, strength, hope, peace, joy, etc. was rooted in His relationship with His Father. And when people hated Him, he drew from the well of His Father’s love which in turn brought Him confidence that He was doing His Father’s will despite what others thought about Him. He did not react in hate, but in love. Why? He was already filled with love! Why did He not strike back (and we all know He could with a vengeance!) when He was struck? Because He was already filled with great peace. Why, when everything around Him was falling apart and even His own disciples “slapped” Him in the face by forsaking Him—why did He still have joy? (“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” Heb. 1:9) Because He had spent time with the Father and was already filled with the joy that was set before Him. Why, when it seemed like at times no one had their heart open to receive what He was saying—why was He so patient when they wouldn’t listen? Because He had already found great patience while being with His Father.
Jesus was “slapped” many, many times by those around Him. But He overcame the temptation to strike back because of His confidence before His Father. And no matter how people treated Him, He could draw from the well of His relationship with His Father.
It’s the same for us. When we get our roots deep enough in God, when others “slap” us in the face (and it does hurt!) then God will rise up in us and we will respond to the “slap” the way Jesus would. Lie about me—I will turn the other cheek and forgive. Be upset with me—I will turn the other cheek and love you still. Get offended with me over something minor and lash out at me—I will turn the other cheek and bless you and pray for you. Say wicked things behind my back—I will turn the other cheek and forgive you. You see, this is the Kingdom way!
Again, the way that we turn the other cheek is that we get to a place where we are already filled with God’s presence, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. and this is what strengthens our hearts when that “slap” comes. It stings for a moment. It hurts. No question about that. But God in you is greater than any “slap” someone may give you. When they do it, don’t react hurt for hurt (I have made that mistake many times), but rather go find a quiet place, take a deep breath, give it to Jesus and say, “Jesus, You got this. You got my back and I choose to walk in love and forgiveness towards that person and I turn the other cheek and when I see them next I will not carry hurt or offense but love. And because of the extraordinary love You have for me I choose to walk in that love towards them.”
Beloved, turn the other cheek.
Ryan Bruss, Director