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Matthew 5:38-39

To Turn a Cheek

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.


How does a right handed man slap another on the right cheek? Backhand him. It is the ultimate insult, a challenge to a duel, a gesture that demands retaliation. Most people would consider themselves justified by hitting back. They might even quote the scripture, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Isn't it interesting how people suddenly remember scripture when they want to justify their own deeds?

There are three scriptures to which Jesus might have been referring. The first is found in Exodus 21:24 and was stated in connection with the murder of the unborn. The other two are found in Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21, both of which refer to malicious injuries in general. In all references to this phrase, however, the power to execute judgment is placed in the hands of the magistrate, and the Jewish scholars believed that the guilty party could redeem himself for an amount of money in all cases except murder. This also meant, of course, that the injured party could choose whether or not he wanted to seek revenge by bringing charges before the judges.

It is the desire for revenge that I believe Jesus is addressing in these verses. His tone is authoritative. We are not to resist evil. The word "resist" is key to understanding this text. It means "to set against, as in battle." Jesus is not forbidding us to protect ourselves and our families by avoiding being attacked, but we are not to reward evil with evil. We are not to strike back in anger, nor to seek revenge for our losses or injuries by having the party arrested and brought before the authorities.

The rule of love and forgiveness is the principle to which God's people are to adhere. The fact that the law provides us a redress does not imply any requirement on our part to bring a complaint. The courts will execute judgment, but judgment does not bear witness to the love which God has for His creation. Only our willingness to forgive can do that.

Finally, there is this matter of turning the other cheek. How literally should we take that? Jesus, when struck by His captors, did not joyfully invite them to strike Him again. Neither did He strike back nor attempt a violent escape. He humbly accepted without any complaint whatever abuse was dealt to Him. He never threatened nor cursed His attackers.

As Christian people, we must be prepared to follow Jesus' admonition and example. We should, of course, avoid trouble and try our best to live peaceably with every man, keeping ourselves and our families out of danger, except when service to Christ demands otherwise. If attacked, we should humbly accept what is done to us. Our faith that the righteous judgment of God will prevail should be our satisfaction in the matter. We should demonstrate God's love and forgiveness to our adversaries, so that they might see Christ in us.

This is not something that can be done impulsively. We must prepare our hearts and minds to act passively long before any incident occurs, so that we do not react in the wrong way. Our preparation must be made on our knees before God's throne. Only He can give us the strength to resist the temptation to get even.

Before The Throne:

Pray that God will keep you and your family safe from those who wish to harm you.Ask the Lord today for the wisdom, faith, love, forgiving heart, and courage that you will need the next time you are attacked either physically or verbally. Thank Him for His promise of justice and trust Him for it.

For Further Study:

(v.38)
** An eye. Exod 21:22-27; Lev 24:19-20; Deut 19:19;

(v.39) ** That. Lev 19:18; 1Sam 24:10-15; 1Sam 25:31-34; 1Sam 26:8-10; Job 31:29-31; Prov 20:22; Prov 24:29; Luke 6:29; Rom 12:17-19; 1Cor 6:7; 1Thess 5:15; Heb 12:4; Jas 5:6; 1Pet 3:9; ** hosoever. 1Kgs 22:24; Job 16:10; Isa 50:6; Lam 3:30; Mic 5:1; Luke 6:29; Luke 22:64; 1Pe 2:20-23;

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