Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)
Something we have spoken of before during our #summersermonseries on the Beatitudes is what Jesus meant when he tells us to turn the other cheek. Though many have abused this passage, he was telling his disciples to nonviolently protest the evil in their midst.
Remember that in the ancient Roman world, everything was about domination. Slaves beat up weaker slaves. Women beat up slaves. Men beat up everyone under them – all the way up the proverbial food chain.
When someone was to be beaten, they would be struck across the right cheek with the back of a right hand. Because that’s how it’s done. And that’s what’s right. It’s what’s proper. So what happens if you then offer your left cheek? It throws your oppressor off-kilter to make a point.
I’ve had people suggest to me that Jesus told us to run away from evil people. However, that’s completely untrue. Paul may have, but Jesus never did.
Instead, Christ taught us to stand up to those who would do evil (including ourselves). To fight back. But to fight back the correct way.
As one of my professors at Divinity School, James Lawson, once said, “Love is our only weapon.” It is not weak. It is not powerless. It is a force stronger than death. It speaks truth in the face of ignorance. It offers God’s justice in the face of retribution. It offers mercy that will shock people right off their thrones.
So, as we prepare to hear the seventh beatitude this weekend, the one about peacemaking, I encourage you to consider the radically different way Christ has called us to view and to approach the world. Never as a doormat. However, always present and ready to turn its mores upside down.
Blessings, Pastor Janie