Let’s continue our “Graduate Level Christianity” by looking closely at some of Jesus’s toughest teachings - His relational commands for us, most of which are found in Luke 6, verses 27-36.
Thus far Jesus has commanded us to love, do good, bless and pray for our enemies.
His next command seems equally difficult: “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (6:29a). At first glance, it seems as if Jesus is asking us to willingly allow our enemy to further harm us.
But that is not what Jesus is commanding. Here, “strike” means a backhanded slap - a blow not intended to injure, but instead to insult, humiliate and degrade. Jesus received such a slap from the Sanhedrin on the night of His arrest.
To be clear, turning the other cheek does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in danger. Jesus’s command to turn the other cheek is simply a command to forgo retaliation for personal offenses. To try to diffuse and deescalate a heated situation.
There are, however, times we must defend ourselves, our families, or our property and use the police or military intervention to protect people from evil. Government agencies are called “avengers of God’s wrath” in Romans 13. Their purpose is to suppress evil.
But this command from Jesus is for individuals. It teaches us how to prevent further harm from occurring during conflict - by refusing to trade insult for insult - thus stopping the escalation of hate and hurt.
Jesus never retaliated. And neither should we who call ourselves His followers.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).