The reign of God means a world that is very different from the one in which Jesus and his followers lived: the Roman Empire. For that reason, most of what Jesus said went against the social norms of his day. The Beatitudes, for example, show preference for the weaker members of society, not the strong as was the custom. For example, when Jesus tells us to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) he is not encouraging passive acceptance of violence. In Matthew he speaks specifically of someone hitting you on the right cheek. For a right-handed person ( as the majority are ) to hit someone on the right cheek requires a backhanded slap, which was the type of blow used by a superior towards an inferior person. By turning the other (left) cheek, you would force the person to hit you with an open hand, which implied equality in that culture. In Jesus’ day, turning the other cheek meant refusing to accept the role of an inferior and insisting on being treated as an equal. This is far cry from being passive, and yet it also avoids responding to violence with violence.
When people of that time put Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount into effect, the result was a society very different from that of the dominant Roman Empire, which then included much of the known world.
By living out Jesus’ teachings together with other believers, we create an alternative society that reinforces our efforts to build that society.
POINTS TO PONDER
- Do you seek revenge anywhere in your life?
- Are you hanging onto a proverbial list of people who have wronged you, so you can get back at them?
- Have you surrendered your right to retaliate to God?
- Where do you need to submit your thirst for vengeance to God?
- Are you being abused? How can you remove yourself from the situation in a non-violent way? Pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit’s guidance here.
- Finally, what is Jesus’ true turn the other cheek meaning to you?