For those of us who are current with the news, we have all heard of the incidents involving police violence against citizens, especially the situation with Michael Brown in Ferguson; the violent episodes of ISIS; and the most recent video showing Ray Rice punching his now wife in the face and dragging her body out of an elevator. These examples are only a small sample of the hate, anger, and lack of judgment in handling situations that go on in our world, communities, families, and intimate relationships. Dr. Martin Luther King’s message on love and non-violence has seemed to have gone into one ear and out the other.
The songwriter is right—what the world needs now is love. At the onset of Jesus’ ministry, he taught us some basic principles about love, giving a new way to love and to practice love. He said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also,” Matthew 5:38-39. Turn the other cheek. Imagine how our world would be if we turned the other cheek. Our world mostly still operates under ‘an eye for eye and tooth for a tooth.’ Rather than healing, we resort to hurting the person who has hurt us. If we are unable to take their eye or tooth as payment for what they have done to us, we harbor the hurt. Too many of us spend our lives wishing and hoping that someone else will hurt the person who hurt us.
We need to turn the other cheek. Just because someone hits us or says something ugly to us does not mean that we have to respond or have a right to respond in the same way. For us to turn the other cheek and take the high road takes love, the love Jesus exemplified through his life, death, and resurrection. To forgive and resist the ‘evil person,’ we have to operate in love for that person. The evil person Jesus has asked us to resist in this passage is not the person who is doing evil to us. It is the person who is doing evil through them—the devil. The devil wants us to take an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. The devil wants us fight and hurt one another.
If we operate in this way, we cannot honestly say that we love God. If we act in this manner, we cannot heal from the hurt that led us into taking the eye or the tooth. Our flesh and the spirit of evil make us believe that cursing someone else out because they cursed us will make us feel better. The flesh and the spirit of evil also convince us that seeing someone else suffer will put an end to our suffering. They can also have us believing that forgiving the person hurting us makes us less than a person. All of this is a lie! It is no longer an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. When we turn the other cheek, it takes power away from the devil, giving us the authority over our hurt and the ability to heal.
When a person forgives another person and turns the other cheek—the anger, hate and hurt will go away. When we truly love the people doing us wrong, the problems that they caused us are no longer ours. They belong to them. We could put an end to some of the ills in this world if we would love one another as Jesus Christ loves each one of us.
Rather than going through the trouble of snatching out a person’s eye or tooth, turn the other check.