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Turning The Other Cheek


MOW
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I'd like to start a discussion on one of Jesus' "hard sayings". This , of course, comes from Matthew 5:39. I'm using the translation from Thomas Moore and Marcus Borg's Lost Gospel of Q.

 

" When someone strikes you on the right cheek, offer them the other cheek too"

 

I'm using Matthew because the corresponding Luke(6:29) passage doesn't mention the right cheek, and I think that is important.

 

Some people think that the type of slap Jesus is describing is a backhand i.e. a blow by the right hand to the right side of the face. By turning the left cheek you're attacker would have to try to hit you with his left hand to the left side of your face. I've heard it said that in many cultures the left side is considered "satanic", or the devil's side. It would be like if you offered your right hand to someone and they stuck out their left hand to you, even in modern cultures that would be an insult.

 

I'd like to offer two images from popular culture that may also be relevent. The first ,oddly enough ,is from The Three Stooges. In some scenes Moe would slap Larry. Larry would not hit Moe back (or turn the other cheek) instead he'd turn around and hit Curly. Curly would of course have no one to hit. This happens in human relationships . When the powerful hit the less powerful ,the less powerful hit the powerless. In Jesus' time the same thing applied. Caeser is a tyrant, Herod is muderer, oh well lets go stone the prostitutes.

 

Another image comes from the movie "Footloose". In one of the later scenes the preacher ,played by John Lythgoe(sp) gets into a heated argument with his daughter. In the midst of the argument she tells him that she is not a virgin whereupon he slaps her. Since he is a large middle- aged man and she is a small and is also his daugther she can't slap him back . So she simply takes it ,without showing any pain or crying out. She just briefly stares at him with no emotion and then walks away from him. He of course is mortified by his actions. I don't know if that is what Jesus had in mind but maybe somewhat.

 

MOW

Edited by MOW
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I think this is the best understanding of the saying:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turn_the_other_cheek

 

Look under "Figurative Interpretation" Even though wikipedia is not a first source for new information it is a good source for findng info that you can't remember exactly how it went!

 

IOW, I had the jist of it but couldn't remember exactly how the interpretation went when you tried to understand what the readers and hearers of the story would have heard.

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MOW writes, "She just briefly stares at him with no emotion and then walks away from him. He of course is mortified by his actions. I don't know if that is what Jesus had in mind but maybe somewhat."

 

This example is similar to the one proposed by Walter Wink a few years ago and adopted by many progressive theological folk. Wink claims that by turning one's cheek, one puts the assailant in an awkward, embarrasing, and even humiliating position. He has similar analyses of the "coat and cloak" and "second mile" sayings, all of which come from the sermon on the mount. Wink's overall thesis is that Jesus was advising his listeners to engage in forms of civil disobedience that would compromise the position of their oppressors.

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MOW writes, "She just briefly stares at him with no emotion and then walks away from him. He of course is mortified by his actions. I don't know if that is what Jesus had in mind but maybe somewhat."

 

This example is similar to the one proposed by Walter Wink a few years ago and adopted by many progressive theological folk. Wink claims that by turning one's cheek, one puts the assailant in an awkward, embarrasing, and even humiliating position. He has similar analyses of the "coat and cloak" and "second mile" sayings, all of which come from the sermon on the mount. Wink's overall thesis is that Jesus was advising his listeners to engage in forms of civil disobedience that would compromise the position of their oppressors.

 

This is sounding familiar. I heard a version of this in the "teaching moment" at my Church. It seems that there were legal implications. A person could legally strike someone of lower class only with the back of the hand. Turning the other cheek would provoke a second return slap with the plam to the cheek, a legal offense. ??? Try this your imagination and see how it might work. The back of the hand to one cheek and the return slap to the other.

Edited by minsocal
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The roots of this saying lie in the meaning of the actions according to the social norms of the day. One interpretation is that a back-handed slap is a disciplinary action, but to turn the other cheek would require the slapper to hit again which then becomes abuse. It is a way of standing up to authority which is something that Jesus was very good at doing.

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This is from a post I did on another board explaining my point of view and belief about turning the other cheek.

 

My pastor wrote this pamphlet on violence for the Brethren in Christ denomination http://www.bic-church.org/about/issues/english/violence.pdf

 

Also "turn the other cheek" is not a good enough basis for the position of non violence. There are plenty of examples throughout Jesus's ministry. Even Paul when persecuted did not lash out violently. The early church lived peacefully, and when there were rumblings of rebellion people like Paul urged them to stop. Early Christians did not serve in the Roman army, those that decided to do so were shunned by the church. It wasn't until Constantine needed more soldiers that he officially opened the doors to Christians, making it the official religion and thus justifying the service in the military as well. Now Constantine's wife was a Christian but Constantine himself claimed Christ but was also leader of the most powerful empire and Christians served a great purpose to his military needs.

 

The Jesus in the temple argument against non violence is not a good one because he did not strike a single person. That actually has been pretty much the general consensus from most scholars. He did act out in a "aggressive" way and used force to flip tables and the whip was used to drive out the live stock. No physical harm was done to people that day and most likely not to any animals either.

 

The old testament is trickier. The wars of the old testament were very violent. There were two kinds of wars in the old testament, the first were wars that God waged. These were wars that came before there was a king in Israel. These were also wars where God picked the weapons and led the people into battle giving precise and clear orders of how to defeat their enemies. They are truly holy wars. After Israel got themselves a king, which God warned them about doing in 1 Samuel 8, the wars became different and the weapons became different.The reasons for war became different. No longer did they march around cities blowing trumpets, now they used words and spears to defeat large armies. Many of the old testament wars were Israels fault because they had disobeyed God and were left to deal with the consequences, war being one of them. God was very much involved in all these conflicts but since Israel decided to choose a king he was no longer leading them against their enemies, so they were left to their own devices. When Christ came he reclaimed the throne of God's people and thus returned the power and complete authority of the new Israel to God.

 

Jesus came with a message of peace, compassion and love. He also was very bold in the fact that he was now the authority over the Kingdom of God and that we must submit to that. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, we no longer need to fight our wars with man's weapons, as Christians. The world will fight over land and ideals until the day Christ returns but we as followers of Christ are not called to engage. I don't think it is a sin to join the military nor is it a sin to not serve your country. The thing is for me, I choose to try and follow what I believe Jesus was saying for us to do. If I am wrong so be it, I just think I would rather err on the side of peace.

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