Turning The Other Cheek
By James Donahue
his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus put forth a lot of good advice to help us live peacefully with our neighbors. One of his most
quoted passages is found in Matthew 5:39: “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.”
not to resist when we are under attack goes against the grain of human behavior. Suppose some guy walks up and punches us
in the face. Standing silent and giving our foe a chance for a second punch isn’t the smartest thing to do under the
well-placed blow might land us in a hospital emergency room. Thus we really have one of two acceptable responses; we put up
our dukes and punch back, or we call the police and file assault charges.
Indeed, pacifists use this verse to support their refusal to fight back, even against an enemy in
wartime. But this does not appear to be what Jesus was really saying. The Bible also offers counter verses demanding reprisals.
For example there is the well-known “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” found in the Old Testament books of
Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
These verses, like the commandment to “turn the other
cheek,” might best be confined to judicial decisions involving human conflict.
Indeed, if your neighbor tosses a rock through your window in a fit of anger, we are not obligated to toss a rock
through his window in retaliation. A better and more peaceful way of resolving such a conflict would be to attempt to talk
to the neighbor, find out what angered him enough to throw the rock, apologize for making him feel such hatred, and asking
him to pay for replacing the window. This is a form of turning the other cheek.
A few years back my family and I lived next door to a family of undisciplined children who often did mean things
to everybody around them. One boy in that household seemed to want to target our children by smashing their toys and taunting
them whenever they were in the yard. One day I called that boy to me and asked him what was making him want to attack us.
He didn’t have an answer. I told him that we loved him in spite of what he did. He walked away with a strange look on
his face. He never bothered us after that.
There are ways
to resolve domestic conflicts without physical assault, going to court or getting into angry shouting matches. To make them
work, however, we need to learn to “turn the other cheek” and resist that temptation to respond in anger.