Matthew 5:38-39 (NIV)
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
This is a difficult Scripture because, at first, it looks like Jesus is telling us we aren’t allowed to defend ourselves if somebody is trying to harm us. Well, let’s take a look at the context of the word “slap.”
Have you ever heard the phrase, “That was a real ‘slap in the face’?” It means, that was really insulting. Yeah, it hurts, but being slapped in the face is more of an insult than a physical injury.
In Jesus’ day, the law literally said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” It was intended to have a justice system where the punishment would fit the crime: if you inured somebody, your sentence would be an equal injury; if you stole something from somebody, your sentence would be replacing it with your own property.
Unfortunately, people started using the law to justify seeking their own revenge rather than going through the justice system. This is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching: don’t have a vengeful nature, have a forgiving nature.
When somebody insults us, calls us a name, or says something else mean, we generally want to retaliate—say something equally hurtful to really put that person in his place. It’s human nature. But Jesus calls us to rise above human nature. Jesus would say that God is love, and love does not keep track of wrongdoing and does not seek revenge. Love is kind and love forgives.
There will come a time when you will really want to strike back because somebody is being a real bonehead. But if you do strike back, doesn’t that make you equally boneheaded? Wouldn’t it be better to let others see you demonstrate the love of Jesus and “turn the other cheek?”
If today’s devotion spoke to you in a particular way and you feel led to share your thoughts with others, please do so.