What “Turn The Other Cheek” Really Means

By Theodore Shoebat

Turn the other cheek , I would argue, is one of the most abused verses in the entire Scripture. It is used incessantly to justify cowardice, indifference, and laziness, in the face of evil people slaughtering Christians. When Christians rise up with militias to defend themselves against Muslim jihadists, we have the Starbucks drinkers screaming “turn the other cheek!”

To deal with this issue, I did a video on it:

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Christ Himself did not turn the other cheek when He was struck during His trial, but instead He proclaimed:

If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? (John 18:23)

Jesus questioned the merit of the strike, but did not “turn the other cheek”, nor did He outright condemn the idea of striking altogether, but simply rejected the as to why He was struck. If a wicked man was justly struck, I don’t believe Christ would object, for He Himself struck and hit the thieves in the Temple with a whip:

And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables (John 2:15)

Did Christ “turn the other cheek” here? No He did not.

Christ used a parable in which he describes a king killing the murderers of his servants and then destroying their city (sounds like a crusade), but not “turning the other cheek” as the Starbucks Christians would have wanted:

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,

And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.

But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:

And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.

But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. (Matthew 22:2-7)

Everything in this story illustrates as a perfect crusade: wicked people kill Christians (God’s servants), and the king sends forth his armies to slaughter the murderers and destroy their city.

Did the king turn the other cheek? No. He killed the enemy. Was Jesus contradicting Himself in telling such a story, or is our pacifist interpretation of “turn the other cheek” wrong? The latter of the two is the correct one.

By turn the other cheek, I will present the explanation of St. Augustine:

Moreover, if we pay attention to the words of the precept, and consider ourselves under bondage to the literal interpretation, the right cheek is not to be presented by us if the left has been smitten. Whosoever, it is said, shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also; Matthew 5:39 but the left cheek is more liable to be smitten, because it is easier for the right hand of the assailant to smite it than the other. But the words are commonly understood as if our Lord had said: If any one has acted injuriously to you in respect of the higher possessions which you have, offer to him also the inferior possessions, lest, being more concerned about revenge than about forbearance, you should despise eternal things in comparison with temporal things, whereas temporal things ought to be despised in comparison with eternal things, as the left is in comparison with the right. This has been always the aim of the holy martyrs; for final vengeance is righteously demanded only when there remains no room for amendment, namely, in the last great judgment. But meanwhile we must be on our guard, lest, through desire for revenge, we lose patience itself—a virtue which is of more value than all which an enemy can, in spite of our resistance, take away from us. For another evangelist, in recording the same precept, makes no mention of the right cheek, but names merely the one and the other; Luke 6:29 so that, while the duty may be somewhat more distinctly learned from Matthew’s gospel, he simply commends the same exercise of patience. Wherefore a righteous and pious man ought to be prepared to endure with patience injury from those whom he desires to make good, so that the number of good men may be increased, instead of himself being added, by retaliation of injury, to the number of wicked men. (Epistle 138)

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