I followed the facebook debate with interest. My daughter and a few of her friends were discussing religious people who wear their faith like badges of honor. People who “talk the talk” but can’t seem to “walk the walk.” As a matter of fact, their delivery of the “talk” is contrary to the “walk.” Essentially they judge us.
During the conversation, someone mentioned the desire to slap those self-righteous believers. My mind raced to a recent teaching about responding to a slap. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…” —Matthew 5:38-42, NIV
Turn the other cheek is a phrase often quoted but rarely understood in the original context and culture. In Jesus’ day the term was an insistence on equality. In that culture a slap was delivered to the recipient as a backhand to the right cheek. To “turn the other cheek” means to offer the left cheek to the attacker who would then have to use an open right hand or the left hand to deliver another blow. Either of those methods of delivery would be an acknowledgement of equality of the parties.
Jesus demonstrated this process on the day He was crucified. One of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”– John 18:22-23 NIV
Certainly the official didn’t consider Jesus an equal and would have delivered the slap as a backhand to His right cheek. (Although we are not told in this incident the position of Jesus’ head, according to His own teaching He would have turned the other cheek.) With His left cheek exposed Jesus responded with a request and a question.
Jesus’ actions interpret His words. Turning the other cheek doesn’t imply we ignore the offense rather that we not retaliate physically. His assertive response asked for clarity and an examination of the truth behind the incident.
The 12 steps to recovery provide a similar solution. Jesus did an-on-the spot fourth step, He made a searching and fearless moral inventory. Finding nothing wrong. He asked his attacker to do the same. Silenced by the truth the man offered no response.
The lesson here is that when we are offended by someone’s words or deeds, our first response is to examine our own motives and actions for the truth according to God. After examining and dealing with the result of our self-examination then we have the right to ask the same of our offender.
Ultimately, the truth will prevail.