Turn the Other Cheek
By Mark Euritt of Austin, TX, USA
Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. —Matthew 5:39–42 NRSV
In today’s scripture passage, Jesus uses parody to empower and preserve the dignity of victims of injustice. In the honor-shame culture of the Mediterranean, there were strict norms governing relationships. Failure to follow these norms resulted in shame and humiliation. When confronting a social equal with physical aggression, financial penalties were levied against the aggressor. Striking with a fist incurred a fine equal to a day’s wage, but striking with the back of the hand meant a fine equal to 100 days of wages because it was a gesture intended to humiliate.
Striking people of unequal status did not carry such penalties. In the right-handed culture of the first century, striking the right cheek of a person of less social stature was not an act of aggression but an act of subjugation. In response to this humiliation, Jesus says to turn the other cheek.
Turning the other cheek means the perpetrator of the strike cannot hit with the backhand. It cannot be a strike of humiliation. This act of defiance turns the table on the one striking and lifts the status of the oppressed. Turning the other cheek is not an act of submission; rather in first-century Palestine, it is a just act that empowers the poor. Dignity and honor are restored to the one oppressed.
How does Jesus call us to empower, with dignity and honor, the oppressed in your culture?
God is with us.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Ordinary time is a season for awakening to God’s presence in all the details and circumstances of our everyday, ordinary lives. Wherever you are, pay attention to your surroundings. Allow yourself to be fully present for a time with whatever is before you. Where do you sense God with you right now exactly where you are?
How does today’s story invite you to discover God in the realities of your everyday life?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.