“Being a Doormat” was not Jesus’ style, nor the style of his followers in New Testament times. He and they were compassionate, and they were non-violent, but they were not doormat quality. In fact, “turn the other cheek,” thoughtfully understood, actually encourages subversive, even dangerously subversive behavior.
* First, when Jesus uttered those words his topic was the avoidance of violence; so we should expect the instruction that follows to deal with ways to avoid violence, which is a different focus than instruction about submission.
* Second, Jesus and his disciples did not behave in subservient or unjustly cooperative ways toward secular or religious authorities.
* Third, the phrase “do not resist” is a poor English choice for the Greek wording Matthew used.
* Fourth, the physical event of being struck on the right cheek presents an interesting problem.
So lets look at this idea closer.
the subject at hand was violent retaliation. “It was said, an eye for an eye.” That’s violence for violence. But Jesus would apparently have agreed with Gandhi, “An eye for an eye, and we all go blind.” So he says, “BUT I say unto you”, and then encourages a non-violent response. What we do not often notice, however, is that the non-violent response he suggests is not a passive response, and could in fact lead to more abuse.
Jesus himself was not submissive to the unjust or irrational use of authority. He set a very different example. He often publicly pointed out injustice or hypocrisy, and frequently irritated or even enraged “the powers that be.” It is not possible to imagine the real Jesus of history coaching other people in door-mat-ness. That was just not his way of thinking or operating.
the phrase “do not resist” sends a message very different from what the underlying Greek conveys. I dislike fussing about Greek words and translation problems, since the translations we have are extremely reliable. But there are a few places, and this is one, where we understand better if we translate better. This really should be rendered more like “do not retaliate violently,” or “do not get violent against”. Jesus was a resistant kind of person. He did not practice nor counsel non-resistance. He did, however, counsel non-violence.
imagine being struck on your right cheek. You probably get hit by the striker’s right hand, which means you get backhanded. Backhanding does not happen in a fair face-off. Backhanding is an insult, punishment, or just plain abuse. Back then it represented a clear situation of oppression or dominance. So you could 1) fight back (not smart), or 2) meekly take it, maybe with “Yes, Sir”.
An alternative “third way”:
Now Jesus suggests a third approach. Offer the other cheek. You are not fighting back, but neither are you meekly taking it. You are asking for more. You may get it or you may not, but either way you’ve made a point or two. You are not exactly what they think you are, and you know it; you are a person, and deserve more equal treatment and respect as a person; you are aware of the truth behind the fraud. You are amplifying awareness of, and insulting, their bullying behavior and the system that allows it.
Also this presents the idea of the cultural uses of the hand that being Right vs Left. The right hand is the clean hand in which you eat with, the left the one you wipe with. So talk about an insult in offering the left hand or, in this instance forcing the person to backhand you with their left brings disgrace on that person.
"Each will live in his own belief"
"who are you then? I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good" Faust
'S Rioghail Mo Dhream