Friday, November 16, 2018

What Does Jesus Mean When He Said “turn the other cheek”.?

Jesus said “turn the other cheek”.  What does He really mean?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 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 5:38-39

The scripture is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  What He’s NOT saying…to be passive and accept whatever injustices or unfair treatment you experience or observe. It won’t just go away if it is ignored.  It can’t be rationalized into oblivion.

What is He really saying to those to whom He’s preaching?  Though it may seem from the scripture that Jesus/Yeshua is giving a civic lesson in passivity to the Galileans, He is not!  On the contrary, He is addressing those who are marginalized…seen and treated as less-than... during His time on earth. These Galileans were looked down upon, abused and cheated out of their meager earnings by the Roman government and the priests…yes, the priests.  Yeshua is teaching them how to be empowered; take their dignity back…be proactive.  They’d had a lifetime of being, socially, economically and politically down-trodden by those in power or authority. The Galileans were often targets of their abuse.  We are all created in God’s image and as such should be treated with dignity and respect.

Jesus specifically said …right cheek… why is that?  In the Bible days, among Jews, a slap or any form of striking in the face was demeaning and contemptible.  It speaks of insulting others.  It was the normal way to reprimand those under your authority …Romans to Jews, masters to slaves and even husbands to wives.  One would never strike an equal in this manner.  It was socially and legally unacceptable and carried a fine.

To be struck on the right cheek implies that the striker used the left hand to strike or a back-hand slap. Both slaps are insulting.  In the Middle East the left hand is reserved for dirty actions, including toilet functions.  It is not permitted to place the left hand on the table, use it for eating or extend it to others.  To be struck on the right cheek was done either with the left hand or backhanded with the right hand.  The striker does not have many options.  To use the left hand would mean you’ve done something unclean.  To strike with the right hand hitting the left cheek is as if striking an equal and that would not be the intent because the intent is to reprimand.

Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek and not resist evil empowers the Galileans not to accept injustice, to resist domination and oppression in a non-violent manner.  Surprise the one insulting you by turning the other cheek… if you are slapped on the cheek of inferiority, turn the cheek of equal dignity.  You’re saying in a non-violent manner that you will no longer  accept being marginalized.  Demanding without speech to be treated as an equal.  We’re all created equal by the One and only true God and will accept nothing less than what He intended for me.  We’re all fearfully and wonderfully made.  Psalm 139:14

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