Do we fight or turn the other cheek?
By TLB Contributing Author: James N. Miller
“From a distance, you look like my friend, even though we are at war.” —Julie Gold, “From a Distance”
Okay, so if you are a baby-boomer, do you mourn the passing of the Mayberry era? If you belong to Generation Z, does Mayberry even matter? Does it even ring a bell?
Today, I want to look at perhaps the most misunderstood command in the entire Bible. For those of you emancipated from the snare of moral relativism, I am referring to this command Jesus gave to His followers —
“If a man strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other as well.”
Now that’s a mouthful, plain as day, found in Matthew 5:39. In Mayberry, turning the cheek might not have been so hard. But today, it’s a different story.
Hello-oo! We are at war. They want us dead, people! So how do we Christ-followers manage our cheeks in light of what Jesus said? First, you gotta know something about the culture of Palestine during the time of Jesus.
Slapping someone’s face in those days was considered an insult, a means of intimidation. It was a personal challenge, a way to escalate a disagreement. Modern culture accomplishes this with certain hand (or finger) signs. This way, one can easily offend without the risk of getting too close. Hmmm, maybe they were braver 2000 years ago. (Smile)
Those who heard Jesus refer to a slap on the cheek knew exactly what He meant …
“Don’t return insult for insult, but don’t show fear either.”
The slap on the face to which Jesus alluded was not the life-threatening kind. It was not an attack on one’s life, family, or country.
How can it be morally right to “turn the other cheek” when the safety of innocents is threatened? When thousands of children are abducted every year and used on front lines in battle? When truth is traded for lies? When purity is ridiculed? What must we do when the enemy comes upon us to steal, kill, humiliate, and destroy?
Jesus never taught that evil should go unopposed. But how do we find the balance between resisting and turning the cheek? Jesus said …
“Blessed are the peacemakers,”
… and yet He rebuked a Roman guard who struck him, and He got the whip out when he saw money-changers in the Temple ripping off unsuspecting seekers.
Cody Musket, a fiction character in the novel No Pit So Deep, says, when asked …
“There is a difference between a peacemaker and a peace lover. The peacemaker is willing to fight for liberty, but the peace lover will sacrifice liberties to avoid a fight.”
Turning the other cheek is not about being a peace lover. It is about standing your ground in the face of aggression, and knowing the difference between an insult and a lethal assault.
In the same way, being a peacemaker isn’t about good people being filled with rage and a thirst for revenge, either. Anger and rage alone will cost us our peace, and thus, the enemy accomplishes his purpose.
We believe our rage is justified because we’re on the right side of the law, but the line between a hero and a murderer is thin, regardless of where you stand. A hero doesn’t want to hurt anyone but sometimes has to, while a murderer doesn’t have to hurt anybody but wants to. In every man there is a potential hero, and in every man there is a potential murderer. It only requires stepping over that line. Mind your heart that it knows where to stop, even if your cause seems just.
Revenge and justice are not the same. Revenge could be defined as justice out of control. Again, it is a thin line, but an important one, and is not to be ignored. Recent events like the Palm Sunday massacres in Egypt present huge challenges, but not impossible ones.
It is easy to miss the most important part of the Christ message. We are not to melt down in the face of evil, but, rather, to oppose evil while resisting the temptation to hate evildoers. Why? Because bitterness will destroy us from within.
We must love our enemies and pray for their deliverance, according to Jesus, and that alone can free us from our hatred. But that does not preclude defending the helpless, fighting for liberty, and bringing offenders to justice.
We still have a choice: Will we allow our own primitive animal instincts to rule over us, or will we live by virtue?
I welcome your feedback, no matter which hat you wear. My opinions are my own and may not always reflect an official position of The Liberty Beacon project.
James N. Miller is the Creator of The Cody Musket Story
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