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The entire section of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in which this verse is found can be understood as one where Jesus actually serves to elevate the importance of following Israel's moral law beyond t...
In the face of violence, man usually has two options - fighting back or fleeing. Here, Jesus offers a third solution - stand your ground. Signal to the aggressor that you refuse to accept the set of assumptions that have made his aggression possible. A story is told of Mother Teresa, the saint of the Calcutta slums. She went with a small child to a local baker and begged some bread for the hungry lad. The baker spat full in Mother Teresa's face. Undaunted, she calmly replied, "Thank you for that gift to me. Do you have anything for the child?" Desmond Tutu, when he was a young priest in Johanesburg, was making his way along a wooden sidewalk and was met by a white man coming from the other direction. The man said to Tutu, "Get off the sidewalk; I don't make way for gorillas." Tutu stepped aside, gestured broadly, and responded, "I do!" On June 2, 1979, Pope John Paul II came to Victory Square in the heart of Warsaw and celebrated Mass in the presence of hundreds of thousands of people and the entire Polish Communist government. During his homily the pope spoke of God, of freedom, and of human rights - all topic frowned upon by the Communist regime. As the pope preached, the people began to chant, "We want God; we want God; we want God." The pope continued to preach but the chant went on for fifteen minutes. During this, John Paul turned toward the Polish government officials and gestured, as if to say, "Do you hear?"
I'll be a little more blunt than my Brother, Don Watson in disagreeing strongly with our Brother, Michael, who wrote the principal answer. Contrary to what Michael says above, Jesus knew what he meant and meant what he clearly, and unqualifingly, says in Matthew 5:38-48, I humbly suggest as my contrary opinion. Our Master was not simply elevating "You shall not murder!" to a "spirit level" for Jews or His disciples. Jesus was radicalizing self-sacrifice to an extraordinary new level for His Followers for all time until He returns. Jesus' "turn the other cheek", etc., is definitely pacifism", which Michael confuses with 'passivism'. (These are two entirely different words with radically different meanings.) Jesus' pacifism was and is new radical. His is a "Creative Third Way" between passivism (non-action) and violence (aggression). No one, before Jesus, to my knowledge, had ever called others to pacifism before in the Mediterranean world. And Jesus intended to break new, radical ground as his first listeners heard clearly. They heard Jesus because he shocked them as He often did. Jesus clearly illustrated his intent by commanding the crowd not just his disciples, to give an "evil person" their underwear, not their "cloak" (poor translation) and be naked in public, rather than EVER resist someone in court. WOW! Given how some of you are reacting to what Jesus really said, rather than what you've been incorrectly taught, can you imagine how Jesus listeners reacted given the violent society in which they all lived under the ruthless Romans. And in case his first two radical illustrations where missed, Jesus creatively gave everyone then, but culturally less clearly for we moderns now, a brilliant example of creative non-resistance. He further commanded that they offer to carry a hated, Roman soldier's bulky, heavy pack a full extra mile than required by law. This pacifist action, not non-action nor violence, like some of the listener's neighbours practised, Jesus' listeners knew would embarrass the soldier's sandals off. And potentially, it could get the warrior in trouble with his Centurion. Yes Michael, Jesus was clearly telling his first listeners, plus us, that we must "place ourselves or others in mortal danger", including our own children. No Michael, our Master who was gruesomely flagellated and, then, horribly crucified as an incredible, personal example of what every Follower likewise must do (Matthew 10:37-39), intended not only complete pacifist, non-resistance to "personal retaliation", but also "to criminal offenses (sic) or acts of military aggression". And Jesus Followers heard their Saviour "loud and clear"! We know they did because it is historically, clearly-documented that, for over 400 years, early Christians would not serve in the Emperor's army nor any positions of authority in public service that could require a decision that could take another's life. Yes Christian, history documents that early Followers of Jesus refused the ancient, equivalent positions of our gun-carrying prison guard or soldier, criminal court judge, and federal politician. And because they did, regularly during that 400 odd years after Jesus sacrifice of Himself as our model, they were brutally persecuted and horribly put to death for their pacifism...just like Jesus was! So where does our modern church support for national wars and Jesus Follower participation in combat roles in the military as protective violence come from? Our unBiblical, personal violence is the demonic, death-producing child of the non-New Covenantal "Just War Doctrine" of the Catholic Bishop of Hippo. In the early 5th Century, Augustine conspired with the Roman government to promulgate and have Priests teach a brand new "doctrine", not Scripture. It was designed to convince the many, still-non-violent, Jesus-obedient Followers to join the Emperor's armies. Christian soldiers were desperately needed to fight off the pagan hordes attacking the Empire, including the Catholic Church's, already-vast land holdings and other wealth, from every direction. Please Christian, do not hear me arguing against "Conscientious Objector" participation in the military for Jesus Followers. I honour and pacifisticly support the guard, military and police wo(men) who protect the rest of us from foreign enemies or native criminals and terrorists. Also, I agree that the New Covenant does not oppose non-Jesus Followers from holding positions in government or elsewhere that can take others' lives. Nowhere does the New Covenant say non-Followers must obey the Biblical injunctions which we must. Also, Romans 13:1-7 makes clear using violence is God-directed to protect society...including pacifist Jesus Followers following Jesus' "Third Way".
'An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth' in the OT expects a self protective response equal to, but no more and no less than the initial act of aggression. By turning the other cheek instead, Jesus tells us to forgive and forget totally, no matter the initial aggressive behavior, just as Jesus forgave our sins on the cross, regardless of its gravity.
Everything in the past is 'perfect' -it happened, everything in the future is perfect - its in Gods hands. All we have to take care of is our present choices. If your cheek is struck, theres nothing you can do about it! What happens next is what matters. If we strike back,we inherently justify the original action and are brought into the company of brawlers, thieves, etc. We have an obligation of stewardship to care for what God has trusted us with, our person and families, with wisdom and gentleness. If we find ourselves through no fault of our own the recipient of injustice, we have to submit to Gods judgement upon us. More often, we are in bad situations through poor choices and must take responsibility and make the most of a bad situation, seeking a peaceful outcome. The world has its villians, and its defenders. We should not seek to align with the company of either, but maintain our caution and awareness as sojourners in a hostile land.
Trying to answer this question is difficult. First, let me say, none of us are like Jesus. None of us has the mission to shed our blood for the sins of the World. So comparing us, even our mission on earth, seems much too arrogant to me. The truth is, there are no black and white answers to this question. I love this site. I have referred many people, because I like, and believe, the answers. The answers, I believe are true, from the Word of God. Now, I do not believe God intends for us to not protect innocent people from violence. But, as for our own safety, that is a decision that must be made at that time. It depends on the circumstances. Jesus in John 15:13. Greater love has no one, than this, than some one lay down his life for his friends. The circumstances of fulfilling this can be many. Including protecting your family, friends, and innocent strangers. We are not Jesus! Even comparing our actions to His, seems prideful to me. We cannot use Jesus, as cover for not doing our duty. Jesus mission, on this earth, was to die for sin. Jesus was the "Good News." There are no pat answers. Our answer will be what ever God moves us to do, at that critical moment.
I know that jesus said we have to forgive others if we want God to forgive us for our wrong doing.God sent his only begotten son to die for our sins, but who himself was without sin, that is a debt that we can never repay back, jesus died in our place so that we can be reunited with our heavenly father after death into eternity forever. John 3:16 tells us how much our Almighty God Father loves us so much. God has a plan for each and every individual. God loves the sinner but hates sin.
In my opinion 'turn the other cheek' means provision for forgiveness, even before you are offended. It also suggests no room for retaliation; don't even think about it at all because it won't be needed. It's like accepting blame for no wrong, or appearing too weak to fight back, even when it's obvious you're physically fit to avenge yourself.
This issue has always bother a little. Turning the other cheek seems to be what Christ did in his last days. If He means for us to do the same, even unto death or the death of innocent, that seems counter to his message of protecting the self and the innocent. Certainly, take every measure to avoid violence or any other morbid act by other humans against us is to be done. But It seems to me that by "laying down" we are not doing God's will. Taking the Bible literally, Jesus said turn the other cheek.. one time; that is ONE cheek. After that I would say stand your ground and protect yourself yourselves and other. Are we to say to the threatened, " Turn the other cheek! It is God's command and keep turning!" I don't think so. The God I have come to know is loving and powerful. He wants all of us to be same. It is difficult.
I don't believe Jesus is talking about physical violence at all. He is speaking about your pride or honor. If someone insults our honor or pride with what is commonly known as "fighting words " we are to walk away. We are to never engage in violence to defend our pride and honor. If you are going to wrestle a pig, you have to get in the mud.
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