The New Christians

The New Christians

When I Turned the Other Cheek

There’s been a tasty little discussion here at The New Christians about turning the other cheek, and I was reminded of a moment in 10th grade — the only time I know when I actually did it. 

I was in the lowest level of band — the band where the kids who couldn’t make the Concert Band or the Varsity Band were placed.  There were only about fifteen of us, not enough to actually play anything as a band.  So we basically just had individual lessons with the instructor, who clearly hated being there.


I played the trombone…badly. 

So, those of us who weren’t receiving instruction on our instruments basically spent the entire hour screwing off.  One day, I somehow found myself in a small corridor off the band room with a couple other guys, guys with whom I did not get along.

Tensions were rising.  They were bullying me physically, and I was countering them verbally.  Then, one of them slapped me hard across the face.

Tears burned in my eyes.  My cheeks flushed red, and my I felt my throat immediately go dry. My heart pounded in my chest.

And, something possessed me to put into practice the verse that I’d heard so many times.

I looked at him, turned my face, and said with a quivering voice, “Here, hit my other cheek, too.”

He and his friend looked at me, dumbfounded, and walked away.

That’s it.  That’s the end of the story.

Have you ever tried turning the other cheek?

Comments read comments(15)
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posted March 5, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Cool story.
Back when I was waiting tables someone one pinched my “cheek”. I don’t know if I should’ve offered the other one, too. But something makes me think this doesn’t apply. :)

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posted March 5, 2009 at 5:12 pm

I have turn the other cheek several times in my younger days, sometimes it was just veribal maybe once or twice phycical.
But now that I’m older 50+ & (A BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN) I HAVEN’T really
came into frontation with anyone, I mean I get angry when I think that I’ BEING provoked but. thats about it. as far as turning the
other cheek I have a tendonsy to speak out more.Then I did when I was
younger. You know kind of keep people in their places and the devil under your feet.

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posted March 5, 2009 at 6:00 pm

I am much better in theory than in practice. Turning the other cheek begins at home………
I like to think I am getting better………the all of a sudden someone really pi**es me off…..and up go the blood pressure and the last thing on my mind is turng any cheek.
How much better it would be to START our children out in life on a path of non-violent resistance.

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Wes Ellis

posted March 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

good story! Similar thing happened to me in junior high. We were playing football at lunch time and this big guy, way taller than me but about my bulk got mad because he thought I tackled him too hard. He immediately turned in to me and decked me right in the face. Being a big guy myself, my first thought was to hit him back. After he hit me a crowd kinda formed around us and waited for me to hit him back… but I didn’t. I simply turned toward him and said, “it’s ok man, you were mad. You didn’t know what you were doing.” I could have looked like a wimp to him but instead I earned his respect through that event.

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posted March 5, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Too many times the idea of “turning the other cheek” dooes more harm than good – especially to women. We shouldn’t turn the other cheek to a physically abusive person. We shouldn’t turn the other cheek to someone who is emotionally abusive. We shouldn’t turn the other cheek to a rapist. We shouldn’t turn the other cheek to a nation who is causing genocide. The list could go on and on. Obviously, Tony didn’t explicity suggest these things. But the idea does have an impact in the lives of many Christians. In my experience as a councelor and chaplain, I have seen them at work. Pastors and other church leaders need to be very careful when promoting these ideas and using this language. It’s the councelors and chaplains that have to help people get over the damage this theology does. So I urge caution and mindfulness. We need to think about the ethical implications of the theology we promote. The following is an article that I have written on this topic:

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Your Name

posted March 5, 2009 at 8:23 pm

There was one woman I knew who had put up with physical and emotional abuse for 3 years. Each time the man hit her, he promised he’d never do it again. And each time she believed him. To get through the emotional pain of getting beaten by the man she loved, the woman read about Jesus’ brave acceptance of abuse for her. She called Jesus her “strong hero.” Her husband found out about this and began using it against her. He’d tell the woman that Jesus said, “turn the other cheek” and “pick up your cross.” She knew he was right about Jesus saying these things. But she also knew it was wrong for him to hit her. Unforchunately, those ideas of cheek turning and cross bearing remained with her. She even confessed that she took a “sick pleasure in getting beaten because it made me more like Jesus.”
This woman finally got help. She had been hospitalized due to an eating disorder. She starved herself because eating was the only thing that she felt she had control over in her life. She survived and entered counceling. After deconstructing her theology of silent suffering, she was finally able to claim more agency over her life. She was finally willing and able to say, “no more” Within a few months she filed for divorce and got her first full-time job. I couldn’t believe how much happier and self-confident she had become. That is the good news. The bad news is that she was so angry at “the Church” for teaching such “sick theology” that she said she would “never, ever go back.”
I can’t imgine if, instead of finally getting help, she just said, “Here, hit my other cheek, too.”

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posted March 5, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Tony’s post in no way condones abuse. It’s a story about a junior high testosterone issue.
I believe what Tony’s and Wes’ stories speak to is finding true confidence that doesn’t depend on outer, base displays of strength. Remaining in an abusive situation would be the opposite of discovering true inner strength.

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Rick C

posted March 6, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I find that when I come to this portion of Scripture (as with all passages of Scripture) it is very important to remember to research both the historical and cultural context in order to interpret the passage as the speaker (in this case the Lord Jesus) intended.
Grace and peace,

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posted March 6, 2009 at 12:54 pm

First, some levity. Ha! you got lucky!
I really thought you were going to say:
“I looked at him, turned my face, and said with a quivering voice, “Here, hit my other cheek, too.”
He and his friend looked at me, dumbfounded, then pulling his fist back–he clocked me.
That’s it. That’s the end of the story.”
When I would say that as a kid, I would get hit. And after getting hit for the second time, I’m not sure who looked like a bigger dork, him or myself? At 10yo, I remember thinking “well, that didn’t work OR make me feel more ‘christian…what was Jesus thinking?”
On the serious side, the posts on abuse. This is not coming from left field. Woman (and men) are getting mixed messages from the church–that abuse isn’t cause for divorce, etc. Didn’t Saddleback get some coverage on their program that has abused woman staying in their marriage?

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posted March 6, 2009 at 2:37 pm

It is a valid question. The truth of the matter is, once you have been beaten up by family members, you lose all desire to be patient, loving and kind. At least I have.
Every single one of the red-nex in the family knows that when my parents go, I shall control the family funds. They have lost every single battle against me in court, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. So I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on good lawyers and having courts ‘take notice’. Won’t stop them from trying, but will, hopefully protect my husband and me.
My policy today is: If a conservative Christian slaps me, my answer is: Why turn the cheek when a thermonuclear response is at hand?
Backing people into corners is never a good thing to do, quite frankly, the conservative Christians have done nothing but to us for too long. I – and many gays and transgendered – have had it. We now fight back.

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Your Name

posted March 6, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I’m a Mennonite so have been immersed in the Theological language of peacemaking all my life. The scenarios that trap pacifists and call into question good judgment in the face of violence and dominance are all too familiar I’m afraid. A real turning point came for me when I read Walter Winks interpretation of this text. Turning the other cheek is not a week response if culturally what is being described is a person who has been struck as a slave (with an open hand) turns his head and DARES the antagonist to strike him with the back of his hand AS AN EQUAL. It is not violence for violence but it is defiance in the face of injustice.

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Your Name

posted March 6, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Check out Walter Winks interpretation

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posted March 6, 2009 at 5:42 pm


posted March 8, 2009 at 9:59 am

Walter Wink’s idea is interesting. Perhaps that’s what Jesus did and meant by the phrase “turn the other cheek” in his time and context. It makes sense that it was about challenging structures of power. But the idea doesn’t work for all cases. Domestic violence is one example. If an abused woman turned her other cheek, she’d just get hit again. More violence. No justice. We need to think ethically about the theologies we promote.

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Theresa Seeber

posted March 30, 2009 at 11:07 pm

I am sorry Tony but I have to say it: You are dead wrong this time. You said that was the only time you remember turning the other cheek. You are wrong. I have seen you turn the other cheek just about every time I have read a blog written by you. (Okay, I know you meant literally and I am talking figuratively, but I like adrenaline LOL.)All jokes aside, one of your strengths is to turn the other cheek, and it is one of the most important reasons I respect and admire you so. Again, and again, and again, and again, you turn the other cheek. Thank you for continually showing Jesus to me in this way. It has honestly helped me to learn to do the same – something I did not do well when I first began to get slapped on the cheeks for my affiliation with the Emergent movement.

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