Turn the Other Cheek...Towards God

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Expressing God, Expressing God, Expressing God, Forgiveness, Putting God First, Sermon on the Mount

When we get slapped in the face (metaphorically speaking) do we fight back? Do we turn the other cheek? What does that even mean—”turn the other cheek”?

Well, Jesus said it a couple of thousand years ago. Does it apply today? Let’s put it in context.

Jesus said, “I say to you, don’t repay an evil act with another evil act. But whoever insults you by slapping you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well” (Matt 5:39 TPT).

When right-handed people hit someone facing them, they will hit the left cheek. So hitting someone on the right cheek indicates a backhanded slap. This was considered an insult—to be hit like a slave, a worthless person, refused your dignity.

When we turn the other cheek, we’re refusing to take offense, to be agitated by someone else’s contemptuous actions, or to escalate the intensity. And we’re essentially saying, Face me, and if you want to fight me, it’ll have to be fairly, not cowardly. In so doing, we’re not asking for abuse. We’re actually claiming our dignity with calm assurance.

When we turn the other cheek and face people without evil, violence, anger, we’re giving them an opportunity to see what they’re doing. We’re challenging them to do the right thing. We stand courageously, but not violently. We stand in control, not out of control. In fact, we stand with God’s control. Such a stand gives us power.

If we go to anger, blame, retaliation, etc., we become weak; we’ve lost, they’ve won. We’ve lost who we are. We’ve lost our sense of dominion, even our integrity, because we’ve given into emotions, and we're letting emotions control us rather than God.

People can make a lot of mistakes when they’re angry. It takes a lot of self-regulation to maintain control when we’ve been so hurt. It takes a life-time of practice. It’s not easy, especially since feelings do come (and it’s okay to feel). But as we trust in God, we find that we don’t have to let such negative emotions control us. Rather, as we humbly lean on God for our strength and listen to God for direction, we find the necessary self-control, confidence, and courage to respond in a way that God designates.

We can even think of turning the other cheek as turning toward God, as totally opening up, which may feel like we’re opening ourselves to attack. But we’re not opening up to become victimized. Rather, we’re opening to God, saying, “I’m here God. Tell me what to do. Use me for Your purpose. Help me love.”

When we turn the other cheek …

  • We turn toward God and away from pain, humiliation, anger.
  • We turn toward love, forgiveness, and reconciliation and leave fear and bitterness behind.
  • We turn towards God’s view of the situation and away from human opinions.
  • We turn towards a solution instead of getting stuck in the problem.

The Bible is full of accounts of turning the other cheek, standing firm in God’s deliverance. It’s when we interfere with God’s work, thinking we can fix the situation better than God, that we run into trouble and make mistakes. So Jesus counseled people to rely totally on God.

How this plays out at work or at home may be different. Perhaps you’ll find an effective and peaceful way to negotiate. Perhaps there will be a greater coming together based on mutual respect and trust. Or perhaps there will be a separation and a chance to start over, find a better position at work, a more harmonious living situation, a partner who truly values you and whom you value.

As we turn towards the light of love and present ourselves openly and honestly to God and to others, we gain spiritual poise and dominion. And we experience a new-found freedom that enables us to trust God to work things out for us and then to follow God’s lead.