Cheek Turning: “If someone strikes you,” counseled Jesus, “turn the other cheek!” Completely impractical words, wouldn’t you agree?
Who does this? You get sucker punched on one side of the face and you’re supposed to submissively turn the other cheek, too? Give me a break! Such nonsense could never possibly work. Just ask the Jews. Or, the Arabs. Right?
Maybe not. But maybe it does, too. But then, how would anyone know? Has it ever really been tried?
Oh, sure, there are those of us who mistakenly think to turn the other cheek means to run from conflict. Or, roll over and take abuse. Or, disappear to a remote corner and lick our wounds.
I’m not talking about this and neither is Jesus. I do know, however, what it’s like to do everything I can to please everybody…to fix everyone as well as every situation…and then, when I fail, which is almost always, I run at the first sign of disagreement in order to avoid a negative reaction or, worse, rejection.
Jesus is talking here instead about real cheek turning or a radical departure from the more common method for handling conflict between two people…between two religions…or between two peoples and nations.
Like the Jews and Arabs.
Like Christians and Muslims.
Like the Americans and…well…just about everybody else.
Jesus went on: “You have heard it said,’An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you, ‘Is that going to get you anywhere?’ Do not strike back at all!” (Matthew 5:38-42).
If Someone Strikes You on the Right Cheek…Do Not Strike Back at All!
This is Jesus’ strategy for resolving conflicts, ending violence, and the futility of seeking revenge. And, frankly, it’s about the dumbest thing he ever said. Isn’t it?
Of course! Everybody knows his strategy would never work. It didn’t work for him. Which probably explains why nobody bothers to try it because the few who have, aka Jesus, the Buddha, etc., either end up being attacked, as in the latter, or dead, as in the former.
Saint Augustine of Hippo knew this, too. Which is why he used his skillful brain to craft a clever alternative – the “Just War” theory – that, for all practical purposes, has guided western history down to the present.
Good thing he did. Otherwise, the Church would have had no way of completely disregarding Jesus’ instruction.
But here’s the question I cannot escape: How do we know cheek turning is impractical? Have anyone tried it lately?
If Someone Strikes You on the Right Cheek, Kick Ass in Response
I do not know the answer to my own question but, my guess is, few have. “Kick ass” is the cowardly but convenient way of responding to any conflict and the favorite method of most Americans.
The Church, too.
Which explains why I always find it interesting when there are discussions among Christians or articles about “the Christian perspective on war.” Isn’t the Christian perspective on war “turn the other cheek?” Granted, there are probably many “church” perspectives on war. But I find it odd that there could be more than one Christian perspective when clearly Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek.”
“Look,” you say, “I’m a believer in Jesus but, when it comes to some of the things he taught, let’s be honest, sometimes his way just doesn’t work. It’s completely impractical and simply cannot be taken seriously.”
Really? Are we not just seeking to dismiss and, therefore, disregard Jesus’ way?
Hasn’t the “Just War Theory” succeeded in just giving “believers” a way to disbelieve Jesus’ teaching, but still regard themselves as believers? After all, idealism does not work in a world full of Hitlers, Hirohitos, Hamas or Husseins.
If Someone Strikes You on the Right Cheek, Turn the Other Also?
I admit I’m a bit conflicted here. Call me simplistic. Label me an idealist. Dismiss me outright, if that makes it a little easier for you. But, for the life of me, I cannot understand how we Christians can claim to be “saving” the world when some of the things the Savior said himself, saints do not believe and so easily disregard.
What am I missing here?