Turning Cheeks

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” -Romans 12:17-21

It is generally accepted that Christians should treat people fairly. If someone loans you money, you repay them. If someone compliments you, you compliment them. If you give someone a reward for a task, you should give someone else an equal reward for an equal task. This is quite obvious, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with me.

But what if I told you that there are times when we should not be fair? Jesus says in Matthew 5:38-39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Now, don’t take this to mean that you should go around letting people slap you or pull out your teeth. Jesus is talking, here, about revenge.

We should never seek out revenge, even if we believe that a person “deserves it.” If someone cusses you out, don’t cuss them out back. If someone insults you and your family in front of your peers, don’t insult them back. If someone humiliates you, don’t plot ways to embarrass them, too. It may be that they deserve it, but this is not about being “fair.”

When we seek out revenge for someone wronging us, we practically make the gospel worthless. For one thing, people will think we are hypocrites if we seek out revenge (and rightly so!). If we proclaim Jesus, then we are saying we stand for peace, love, and acceptance. Cussing someone out because they “deserve it” does not sound like peace, love, or acceptance. Think about what Jesus did for us on the cross. We are sinful and unable to be saved without the help of Jesus. So Jesus lived as a human on earth without sinning and sacrificed himself on the cross to pay the price for our sins (“The wages of sin is death.” -Romans 6:23a). He then rose again to eternal life so that we, too, can share in eternal life with him. This is not something we deserve. If Jesus was fair, then we would be burning in hell right now. Thank God, he was not fair!

Now, if we accept the salvation that is offered to us because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we are claiming Christianity. A Christian should be someone who strives to be like Christ. So strive to be like Christ! When someone wrongs you, follow Jesus’ example and offer that person love and forgiveness. This is more than they might “deserve,” but Jesus gave more than you ever could. Show people who Jesus is by the example that you live.

Lastly, do not think that you are “being the better person” by not enacting revenge. You are no better than the person that wronged you, even if you offer forgiveness instead of revenge. Do not be prideful. Turning the other cheek (not seeking revenge) is often humiliating, and I can guarantee that you will feel like justice has been overlooked. You will probably feel like you are letting the other person “win.” Good. Jesus made himself lower than the ones he came to save (Philippians 2:6-7; Hebrews 2:9), and suffered humiliation on the cross for our sakes. Follow his example, knowing that even though you will face humiliation and ridicule in this life, justice will happen, and you will be lifted up in the life to come.

Matt KellyComment