38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
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. – Matthew 5:38-39
An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. This sounds just, but this is not the calling we are called to as Christians. Rather, we are told that we are not supposed to repay evil for evil. Instead, we are to “turn the other cheek.”
Another scripture states, “be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Vengeance is mine. I will repay, saith the Lord.
We serve a God of mercy but also a God of justice, and He is the judge and ruler of us all. We all deserve to face the upmost penalty for our sins: death. Having received so great a gift as the forgiveness of sin by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we should strive to show the upmost mercy to all as much as is possible.
It is not easy to turn the other cheek. Doing so requires us to adopt certain mindsets so that we can seek Jesus who can change our hearts in these regards.
For one, having the humility to know that we are not worth good treatment—but rather worthy of death—can help us keep the right perspective.
We can also consider the good that might come from showing restraint. We might give room for repentance and create an opportunity for preaching the gospel.
When we behave in a manner that is not typical, we can let people know that we do so because this is what our Lord, Jesus commands.
There are times when no apparent good comes from showing restraint. Sometimes the only thing we can do is focus on our desire to remain blameless as those who are “perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.”
There are practical reasons for this teaching of Jesus also, and we can see this in our present time.
There is a lot of cheek slapping and justice seeking today. There are entire movements founded on the idea of justice, so called. We might become tempted to join in with these movements, and not in a way that is fitting for a Christian. Before long, it becomes difficult to distinguish a believer in Jesus from the rest of the world. That is not good.
We are not murders, but those who are will face the judgement of God, and He will avenge.
He will avenge all of the blood that was shed, including that of His faithful servants who keep these teachings of Jesus—He who said that we should turn the other cheek.
God is in control, and this includes control over the things we suffer in this life. We should not rebel against God. Remember Jesus who said, “you would have no power over me if it were not given to you by my Father.”
If our enemies are given power over us, then this is because God has ordained it. We can trust in Him and focus on doing what is right, even in the face of great adversity. If we fail, we return to Jesus, acknowledge our sin, and seek strength to do better.
There is day of vengeance, but this is a day for the meek (self-controlled) who hold the ways of Jesus dear and precious, strive to keep them, and seek the Spirit so that we might.
Peace is precious in the face of great warring. God will see and He will deal with all injustice for our sake. Yet, He is patient with the wicked everyday so that His purposes are fulfilled and His glory revealed. His glory is revealed in the destruction of the wicked, but also in the patience of His saints who endure trouble for His sake with faith and fear of the Lord.
This article is part of a series that considers the Parables of Jesus. Right now, we are looking at the statements Jesus made during His Sermon on the Mount, to which He referenced in His Parable of the Building on Rock and Sand. Visit the link for quick access to all articles written within this series. Subscribe for notifications of future posts.