Do You Turn the Other Cheek?
WHENEVER anyone slaps you on the right cheek, do you turn the other also to him? Jesus in the sermon on the mount set this as a rule of conduct for Christians to follow. Do you practice it? When wronged do you find yourself saying: “Just as he did to me, so I am going to do to him”? Many feel it is necessary to pay back injury for injury and wrong for wrong to keep people from taking advantage. Do you feel that way? Do you think Jesus’ words are pleasant to listen to but impractical to follow?—Prov. 24:29.
Today professing Christians will generally praise the teachings of Jesus as sublime, but they feel that they are impractical in this evil world. As Oliver Wendell Holmes so well expressed it: “Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer.” Pharisee-like, people of Christendom often “say but do not perform.”—Matt. 23:3.
“Since 1914 the world has had a new character . . . it closed a long era of general peace and began a new age of violence,” according to H. R. Trevor-Roper, don at Oxford University. Hand in hand with the age of violence came a new set of standards of conduct: ‘Swindle others before they swindle you.’ ‘Get everything you can, and preserve everything you get.’ ‘Fight fire with fire.’ People have come to be governed by these standards; they are looked on as being more practical. Nikita Khrushchev recently commented on his view of Christ’s teachings and particularly what he thought about turning the other cheek. “I don’t agree with turning the other cheek. If I was struck on the left cheek I would strike the fellow back on the right so hard, what is more, that I would knock his block off.”
Has this ‘be tough’ policy, this ‘doing to others as they do to you,’ reaped peaceful fruit? Is it really practical? The evidence shows it has resulted in an “age of violence.” Fear, distrust and hatred have never been more prevalent. Once started, the cycle of rendering evil for evil, slap for slap, injury for injury rolls along, picking up momentum like a plunging avalanche sweeping into destruction everything and everyone in its path. Once started it is difficult to stop; but it can be stopped. Meditate on Christ’s teachings, consider their value, and then put them into practice.
Jesus said: “Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him.” (Matt. 5:39) Now, Jesus did not say that if someone strikes you on the jaw you should get up off the floor and hold up the other side of your face for a target. No; how foolish and ridiculous that would be! A slap is not intended to injure physically but only to insult or provoke into a fight. What Jesus was saying was that, if anyone tried to provoke you into a fight or an argument, by either literally slapping you with an open hand or stinging you with insulting words, it would be wrong for you to retaliate. “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” Peter said that Christians would not be “paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling, but, to the contrary, bestowing a blessing, because you were called to this course, so that you might inherit a blessing.”—Rom. 12:17, 21; 1 Pet. 3:9.
Years ago it was the practice to challenge or provoke another into a duel by slapping him across the face with a glove. Because of pride or fear of public opinion few were enough of a man to turn the other cheek. In France, under Henry IV, it is said that no less than four thousand men lost their lives in just one year fighting duels. Today, in effect, the same thing is done. How fast people and nations take offense and are provoked into fights and wars! It is considered weak to turn the other cheek. How quick persons insulted are in returning insult! The target of a gossiping tongue swiftly becomes the shooter of poisonous words, which wound and kill reputations and friendships. How can this vicious cycle be stopped? Heed Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek! Yes, heed the wise proverb: “Do not say: ‘Just as he did to me, so I am going to do to him.’”—Prov. 24:29.
Is following this course practical today? Will not people take advantage of you? Will they not consider you weak if you turn the other cheek? That is generally what is thought, but just the opposite is true. Others will usually respond according to your action. If you are cold and unpleasant, likely you will receive a cold, unpleasant response; but when you are warm and congenial toward others, have you not found that they are usually that way toward you? If others try to begin a cycle of evil by slapping you on the cheek, why let it develop into a cycle? Why not “keep on blessing those who persecute”? It is very difficult to continue hostile toward one who is loving and kind. “If the one hating you [perhaps he has slapped your cheek] is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” Try this and see if it does not prevent the devilish cycle of evil and put into motion the Christlike method of blessing. Do not give up, but keep it up; “keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Rom. 12:14; Prov. 25:21.
Let Khrushchev and world leaders like him continue to live by their rule of ‘knocking another’s block off if he tries to start something.’ Their course will continue to cause evil feelings, hateful words, and may lead to further conflicts between the nations. It is much better that we as Christians follow the teachings of Jesus not merely as the standard to sail under but as a rudder by which we can steer our course into peace and unity with our fellow man and eventually into God’s new world of peace and righteousness.