The other cheek - Hope 103.2

The other cheek

By David ReayTuesday 10 May 2016LifeWords DevotionalsFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Read Matthew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. 40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. 41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. (NLT)

This is one of those texts which defy literal application. Jesus is not advocating ‘anything goes’ in society. There are civil authorities. Crime needs to be punished. Jesus is rebuking those who used the civil laws of ‘eye for eye’ as a motive for seeking personal revenge. That law was meant to limit punishment: it could not be excessive but must fit the crime. It was not an invitation to hit back every time we believed we were wronged.

Slapping someone on the cheek in those days was not a case of assault. It was a petty insult. Jesus says that we aren’t to go overboard and ‘throw the book’ at such a person. It is not as if we are to meekly tolerate criminal misconduct or become insipid doormats who let anyone do anything to us. Jesus and Paul each stood up for their legitimate rights.

Rather we are not to be those who readily take offence and are always looking at how others hurt us and how we can pay them back. Jesus wants us to err on the side of generosity, to put up with some hardship or minor injustice rather than thinking ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth’.

We may think that getting back at someone who hurts us will even the books. But it never does. Vengefulness feeds on itself and the ledger is never squared. Hurting those who hurt us ends up hurting us more.

David Reay