From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

Turning The Other Cheek

A friend on Facebook asked about Jesus’ saying to “turn the other cheek” in Luke 6. It caught my attention this morning and I wanted to respond more fully to her question here. Does it mean we just let people take advantage of us? Just let our enemies do whatever they want? Would we quote this passage to to an abused wife? What does it mean?

First, the passage itself:

Luke 6:27-36 (ESV) 27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.  32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Note Jesus speaks to “those who hear”. This isn’t everyone. These are not “timeless principles” for anyone, but teachings for those who hear his voice, i.e. his followers. Forget about doing what he says here if you haven’t heard his voice, if you don’t know his love.

The point is loving enemies (vv. 27, 35). Between these verses are examples of that. Followers are to do good to, bless, and pray for their enemies. And they are to enact the love of Christ toward their enemies, as he enacted his love toward us who have been Christ’s own enemies (see Romans 5:10). This does NOT mean we just passively let our enemies do whatever they want; it does NOT mean we’re disengaged with our enemies. On the contrary we do what we do because we love them. The aim is for the enemy to see Christ’s love for them enacted, and so to be a means for the Holy Spirit to change them.

As I understand it, in the case of an abused wife she would NOT just take his crap. Co-dependency is not love, it’s just another form of self-protection. If she truly loves her husband, she will tell him the truth that he is not loving her the way Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:22-25); she is to love her husband when she moves out of the house so that he’ll see what his behavior is doing to their relationship. Seeking the good of the enemy is the point, whether it’s turning the other cheek, or confronting them with the truth as Jesus did with the Pharisees, with the rich young ruler, with Peter, etc.

Can you do this? Get real! Of course you can’t! Not unless you’ve known yourself to be the enemy of Christ; not unless you’ve known his unmerited grace; not unless you’ve seen how he’s given himself for you. It’s only on that basis that you can connect with your enemy, see him as no worse a person than you, and treat him as you’ve been treated by Christ.

If you have other thoughts, please post them here. I’d enjoy hearing from you!

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