Turning the Other Cheek

Joel Stephen Williams

"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; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile" (Mt. 5:38-42).

A big sergeant from a Highland regiment, serving many years ago in Egypt, was asked the circumstances of his conversion: "What was it that turned you to Christ?" He told of a private in his company years before when he was serving in Malta. This private was frequently harassed by other soldiers for his religious faith. One night the private came into the barracks quite late. It was a very rainy night. Before getting into his bunk, he knelt, as was his custom, to pray. The sergeant picked up one of his boots, which was heavy with wet mud, threw it across the room and hit the private in the side of the head. The private said nothing. He wiped the mud from his face and crawled into bed. The next morning, however, when the sergeant woke up, he found his muddy boots cleaned and polished by his bedside. He said: "It broke my heart."

One religious group has an advertisement on television which shows a rude driver of an off- road vehicle who intentionally splashes mud all over a bicycle rider. Later down the road, his vehicle has broken down. The bicycle rider arrives on the scene, looks at him sternly for a moment, then smiles and tries to help him fix the problem.

Turning the other cheek is not easy. The first inclination is to strike back, to get even, or to seek revenge. The route Jesus urges upon us is the behavior which is more likely to influence the other person for good. It is not something which Jesus merely commands, because Jesus practiced this ethic all of his life, especially in his death. Let us all take his teaching and his example to heart on turning the other cheek and attempt to put it to practice in our lives.

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