Turn the other cheek
Exodus 21:12-36; Matthew 5:38-48
When we were moving through Exodus we came across the Old Testament law: “an eye for an eye.” It limited the kind of retribution the injured party could pursue. The law says you may exact only as much as it cost you. There is to be no escalation of violence according to the law of Moses.
But here in Matthew, Jesus ‘fills full’ the law of reciprocity. He doesn’t just seek to limit the payback we seek. He tells us to pay back in a completely different way. To answer evil with good:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)
Here’s what Jesus is saying:
When you are struck…
- don’t strike back, take the blow
- don’t protect yourself, expose yourself
- don’t lead with justice, lead with mercy
- don’t retreat into safety, advance into danger
- don’t retaliate with strength, retaliate with weakness
- don’t shrink into self-pity, move out into self-giving
- don’t insist on your rights, open yourself to wrong
- don’t cower in defeat, hold fast in meekness
- don’t stand on your dignity, stand on your shame
- don’t harden into bitterness, soften into tenderness
- be defiantly peaceable
- be immovably vulnerable
- be steadfastly gracious
- be victoriously wounded
- be like Jesus.
Who, when we lashed out at Him…
- did not come in violence, nor remain in indifference
- did not strike back, nor shrink back
- did not retaliate, nor harden
He absorbed the blow
And He turned again to us.
He upheld His offer.
Arms outstretched, even to His killers.
There is strength in this weakness.
Strength to redeem the world.
It begins with surrender.
Laying down your arms.
Receiving His peace.
It continues with service.
Following His way.
Absorbing your own blows.
Today. Every day. Turning your cheek.
To this you are called.
To be lower than a door-mat. Far lower.
A door-mat is passive
But you throw yourself under the feet of your enemies.
To be lower than a slave. Far lower.
A slave walks his allotted mile grumbling in his heart.
You walk two miles with a glint in your eyes.
For you know the power of this weakness.
It reconciles the world.
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