The Other Cheek, The Second Mile

Jesus’ teaching runs counter to every impulse in the sinful human heart! Before we reject His words as totally unrealistic for life in our world, we need to try to understand what He meant. The Lord does not here address the questions of war and peace, nor is He denying the authority of the state to punish evildoers. Both Jesus and His apostles always upheld the police powers of those in authority (Matthew 22:21; John 19:11; 1 Peter 2:13-14). Nor is Jesus telling us to give in to persistent and dangerous physical abuse in the home, or to encourage begging on the street. No. Jesus here confronts our tendency to exact revenge. The original law of retribution ( lex talionis) in the Old Testament forbade inflicting more damage than one had suffered (Exodus 21:24). But Jesus goes further: He forbids His disciples from taking any revenge at all for personal insult and injury. A slap on the face hurts, and usually constitutes an insult. Turn the other cheek! Someone takes your possessions; don’t go to law about it. If he infringes upon your liberty, give more than he demands. Freely give to those who ask. Imagine what would happen if we actually lived this way! Street violence would drop; divorce rates would plummet; family feuds would disappear; thousands of tort lawyers would have their income radically – and rightly! – reduced. It’s not a matter of overlooking insult and injury while you seethe inwardly, waiting for the time when you can repay the one who hurt you. No! Jesus would have us “overcome evil with good,” and not be overcome by evil, or by our response to it ( Romans 12:21). He wants us to be free from resentment, the lust from revenge, and the tyranny of insisting upon our own petty rights. In other words, He is saying, “Follow Me!”