“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5: 38 – 42
In these verses Jesus was once again referring to the Old Testament Law and showing his audience that there is a better way to live. Jesus was taking relationships past the Law and into the realm of Grace. The Law said that every wrong deed would be repaid in kind, Jesus said don’t repay at all. This is a hard concept to grasp and an even harder concept to live. Our flesh cries out for revenge, when we have been wronged or mistreated we want to lash out we want the person who has wronged us to feel the same pain we have felt. But Jesus knew humanity and he knew that the Law of retribution was only causing more pain. Inflicting more pain never brings a solution to the problem. If you have been hit hitting back does not alleviate the pain of the slap on your face. But if you turn the other cheek, the cycle of pain stops.
Its like the story of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s and their famous family feud. One family member killed a member of the other family and then the other family had to get revenge and kill someone from the other family. If this didn’t stop before long there wasn’t going to be anybody left from either family. Fortunately, they wised up and made peace but not until after there was so much devastation to both families and so many hurt feelings. It’s the same way with the struggle we have watched in the Middle East with Israel and her neighbors. People from both sides of that conflict have raised their children to hate the other side. So many years have passed and now there are completely new generations of people hating just because they have been raised to hate.
Practically speaking most of us have now grown up enough that we don’t get into physical altercations and go around slapping people on the cheek. But this concept still applies. It applies in our actions. How many times do we seek revenge on someone at home or at work that has done something to us? Is there a co-worker who does something to try and undermine us to the boss, or our spouse who has hurt our feelings? Do we let it go (Oh I’ve heard that song just too many times lately) or do we seek revenge either by outright actions or by silence?
This verse is about keeping accounts. Do we live our lives remembering everyone who has hurt us and whether or not we have gotten back at them or do we choose to turn the other cheek. Jesus words here are about not taking into account a wrong suffered – the same words we hear again in I Corinthians in the great passage about love. The only way to truly live our lives in the freedom that Jesus offers is to Let It Go!!! The only way to stop the cycle of hatred is to turn the other cheek? Let It Go!!
Grace and Peace