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Turn The Other Cheek

"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 one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:38:45 RSV)

Sea Of Galilee The above verses are from the "Sermon on the Mount," spoken from what is today called the Mount of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea Of Galilee (in photo) in the Galilee region of northern Israel.

Many have wondered just how far the famous "turn the other cheek" instruction from Jesus Christ should go in everyday Christian Living. Does it mean that we must allow ourselves to be defenseless victims of every thief or attacker that may come along?

It's very important to realize the context in which Jesus Christ was speaking. In essence, He was telling those gathered there before Him, as well as us today, that Christians are not to respond to religious persecutors as though they were common criminals. He went on to say, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44 RSV).

Jesus Christ was not prohibiting self defense by Christians in a manner permitted by law. He also said, "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace." (Luke 11:21 RSV). No "turn the other cheek" for burglars or looters, and by extension, every other sort of common criminal.

But why "turn the other cheek" toward religious persecutors? And how should we respond to those who are unfriendly toward us, as Christians, because they don't yet have the "ears to hear"? (see Fools For Christ and "A Proud Atheist")

Consider -

"And The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:24-26 RSV)

A thief knows exactly what he's doing, stealing your property, plain and simple. On the other hand, someone who attacks you because of your Christianity does not know what he's doing. His or her time of understanding of God's Truth, and choosing whether or not to obey it, has not yet come. Right now, you have a tremendous advantage over that individual.

Would you want to harm a good friend? That's what your persecutor may one day turn out to be, and that friendship will last forever, through a glorious eternity (see Why Were You Born?), far longer than the few years of a troublesome human lifetime (see Why Does God Allow Suffering?).

The apostle Paul was once one of the most hostile enemies of Christian people. He actually took part in the killing of Stephen, regarded by many as the first Christian martyr. But Paul became one of the greatest Christians of all Bible History after his conversion On The Road To Damascus. His writings now provide us with a very large part of the New Testament (see New Testament Fact File).

Paul's example is solid proof that sometimes the worst enemy can become the best friend, but it requires patience and Forgiveness on our part, while God does His part, in His own good time.

"Turn the other cheek" is an important rule for Christians because, as Jesus Christ said as they were brutally killing Him, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34 RSV)

Fact Finder: Will God forgive our sins against Him if we don't forgive those who sin against us?
Matthew 6:15


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