What Did Jesus Mean?

Most of us know of the "turn the other cheek" quotation from "The" Bible. Most think it advocates passivity as an example of a higher path. I heard that, too, but when a friend shared the following insight I took pause.

My Sikh friend said that in the time of Jesus soldiers would "smite" Jews on the cheek for cause or for NO cause, just because they were the toughest that day and to prove they were in charge. After the blow the person was allowed to proceed, presumably to retell how tough the soldiers were, BUT if the smitten kitten squawked about it, they were SLAIN. Jesus, therefore, said to take a second blow on the other cheek if they had to so at least you'd live. Different spin on the same valid teaching.

In case I wasn't convinced on the idea of one friend, I was taught by a Holy Man, my Guru, that the advice given was valid AT THAT TIME, but not today. In fact, this usually conciliatory, non-confrontational teacher [alive in THESE times] said words to the effect that if you see a bully is about to hit you, HIT HIM FIRST!!!!

Recent to the writing of this story I posted a Question about people's interpretations on the meaning of "turn the other cheek". The answer I picked, closest to confirming what I just articulated, was that the advice would be seen as feckless today if followed, which you could think about while picking up your teeth from the street. Very intuitive!

BTW, in keeping with the usual nonsense on EP, one wiseass answered my question disrespectfully and I found myself unable to converse with them about it as they had already "blocked" me. I continue to be astounded at the ego size of several like this who won't allow me to message or even answer their question but have the chutzpah to think I should tolerate their "wisdom", wisecracks or other disrespect on questions I post. There are SO many of these on EP that many, many others have written repeatedly about it I so hereby confirm  1) I deleted this latest "blocker answer" [they were able to answer because I've not blocked them or anybody ever] 2) I've deleted others at other times, and 3) you can rest assured any such monkeys who post to this story will be sent to cyber-hell via the delete key.

Pax vo biscum...              

freeed freeed
66-70, M
22 Responses Aug 26, 2009

The whole point of this story is I won't turn the other cheek, that is stale advice for a distant time and circumstance.<br />
Cyber-hell for people who blocked me [that I didn't re-block] but have the audacity to post with me. If someone doesn't want to hear what I have to say i don't listen to their "thoughts".

Cyber he'll? What happened to turn the other cheek?

The context in which Jesus said that was:do not hate your enemies but love them.Do not resist an evil man (good solid advice) and forget about eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.5:40 . .if someone wants to take your undercoat let him have your coat too 5:41if anyone forces you to to go one mile,go with him two miles5:42 give him that keeps on begging from you . .do not turn away from him who would borrow from you 5:43,44 dont hate your enemies,love them.<br />
It's all in the same context as 1 Cor 13 :4-8.<br />
I don't think left hand and/or back hand slapping has anything to do with it


Thanks brother for sharing your thought, and as Schmee2369 mentioned, this is pretty interesting... I found new explanation about here about the right hand slapping the right cheek and then it meant the using of the back of the hand which meant humiliating...<br />
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It's just... in this matter I'd like not to argue with anybody here, but I'll keep your question in my heart, bro....

Thanks for the compliment, Every situation is different. I've faced the wrong end of a gun during a robbery and during another altercation and "Hit first" would NOT have been very wise. LOL<br />
That you have compassion for your opposers shows enlightenment. At bottom that same teacher asked us to see God in each other, in line with what you stated. He also said the source of fear is the sense of "otherness" - non-love. We use different words but I repeat our agreement exceeds our differences!

I've often wondered if it wouldn't be cheaper to send gifts of aid to our "enemies" instead of making expensive extensive war like we do, only to "rebuild them" afterward.<br />
We are all entitled to our opinion, and what was said to me "Hit first" was said to me and I'll go with it. It was NOT said to you so you are not even expected to believe it. To each their own. Not to be argumentative, but I'm going to wager you've never been in a prison where your tactic would absolutely invite a beatdown, not what you THINK it will do.<br />
I see more commonality with your views than disputes....

gypsygirl: Please don't presume to "know" my full beliefs about Jesus; you'd be surprised but you're not ripe enough to hear them , so I'll just answer with: your desires project what YOU wish Jesus to be, and having never met Him, who are ANY of us to claim full knowledge? This entire [now small book] discussion concerns ONE TINY passage and what is SOOO radical about an alternative spin on the many times translated words?<br />
I'll take the prayers, though and won't pray for you yet because you'd not accept them. "Love thy neighbor as thyself". Do you think I don't see Jesus' intention in that, too?????<br />
FYI my moniker is freeed because I DO know part of the Truth and AM free.

Your intellect makes you not see Jesus, for who he is. He is the savior John 3:16. I will take it that war is not good. But in self preservation countries do defend themselves. My mom was misled like you for years. She finally accepted Christ as her Savior, 6 months before she died. I will pray for you. Hopefully you wil know the truth and the truth will set you free.

"No complaints. In retrospect I should've put Occam's Razor to this *****, and cut it down to maybe a paragraph about why it doesn't make much sense for Jesus to say, "Turn the other cheek," when what he really meant was, "Keep your eyes on the ground and your head down, otherwise you might get your *** killed by a Roman," especially considering the context it's in" - quoting you. I'm willing to leave it at that with the observation it's really another way of saying what my friend said, therefore fundamentally we agree.

Catholic New Times, Feb 13, 2005 by Walter Wink :<br />
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A proper translation of Jesus' teaching would then be, "Do not retaliate against violence with violence." Jesus was no less committed to opposing evil than the anti-Roman resistance Fighters like Barabbas. The only difference was over the means to be used.'<br />
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You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a moth. But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (attributed to Jesus in Matthew 5:38-41, Revised Standard Version).<br />
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Many who have committed their lives to working for change and justice in the world simply dismiss Jesus' teachings about nonviolence as impractical idealism. And with good reason. "Turn the other cheek" suggests the passive,. Christian doormat quality that has made so many Christians cowardly and complicit in the face of injustice. "Resist not evil" seems to break the back of all opposition to evil and counsel submission. "Going the second mile" has become a platitude meaning nothing more than "extend yourself." Rather than fostering structural change, such attitudes encourage collaboration with the oppressor.<br />
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Jesus never behaved in such ways. Whatever the source of the misunderstanding, it is neither Jesus nor his teaching, which, when given a fair hearing in its original social context, is arguably one of the most revolutionary political statements ever uttered.<br />
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When the court translators working in the hire of King James chose to translate antistenai as "Resist not evil," they were doing something more than rendering Greek into English. They were translating nonviolent resistance into docility. The Greek word means more than simply to "stand against" or "resist." It means to resist violently, to revolt or rebel, to engage in ah insurrection. Jesus did not tell his oppressed hearers not to resist evil. His entire ministry is at odds with such a preposterous idea. He is, rather, warning against responding to evil in kind by letting the oppressor set the terms of our opposition.<br />
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A proper translation of Jesus' teaching would then be, "Do not retaliate against violence with violence." Jesus was no less committed to opposing evil than the anti-Roman resistance fighters like Barabbas. The only difference was over the means to be used.<br />
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Three responses to evil<br />
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There are three general responses to evil: (1) violent opposition, (2) passivity, and (3) the third way of militant nonviolence articulated by Jesus. Human evolution has conditioned us for only the first two of these responses: fight or flight.<br />
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Fight had been the cry of Galileans who had abortively rebelled against Rome only two decades before Jesus spoke. Jesus and many of his hearers would have seen some of the two thousand of their countrymen crucified by the Romans along the roadsides. They would have known some of the inhabitants of Sepphoris (a mere three miles north of Nazareth) who had been sold into slavery for aiding the insurrectionists' assault on the arsenal there. Some also would live to experience the horrors Of the war against Rome in 66-70 C.E., one of the ghastliest in history. If the option of fighting had no appeal to them, their only alternative was flight: passivity, submission, or, at best, a passive-aggressive recalcitrance in obeying commands. For them no third way existed.<br />
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Now we are in a better position to see why King James' servants translated antistenai as "resist not." The king would not want people concluding they had any recourse against his or any other sovereign's unjust policies. Jesus commands us, according to these king's men, to resist not. Jesus appears to say that submission to monarchical absolutism is the will of God. Most modern translations have meekly followed the King James path.<br />
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Neither of the invidious alternatives of flight or fight is what Jesus is proposing. Jesus abhors both passivity and violence as responses to evil. His is a third alternative not even touched by these options. The Scholars' Version translates antistenai brilliantly: "Don't react violently against someone who is evil."<br />
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Jesus clarifies his meaning by three brief examples. "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Why the right cheek? How does one strike another on the right cheek anyway? Try it. A blow by the right fist in that right-handed world would land on the left cheek Of the opponent. To strike the right cheek with the fist would require using the left hand, but. in that society the left hand was used only for unclean tasks. As the Dead Sea Scrolls specify, even to gesture with the left hand at Qumran carried the penalty of ten days' penance. The only way one could strike the right cheek with the right hand would be with the back of the hand.<br />
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What we are dealing with here is unmistakably an insult, not a fistfight. The intention is not to injure but to humiliate, to put someone in his or her place. One normally did not strike a peer in this way, and, if one did, the fine was exorbitant (four zuz was the fine for a blow to a peer with a fist, 400 zuz for backhanding him; but to an underling, no penalty whatever). A backhand slap was the normal way of admonishing inferiors. Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children; men, women; Romans; Jews.

Anti-Jew you are, eh? I think that speaks volumes....

Actually, you did imply that people perpetuating socially unacceptable behavior should be punished through imprisonment, if you'll remember. I know you didn't say you were fond of the prison system, I was being sarcastic, that's why I said "we". Obviously I am not fond of the prison system, I'm an ex-con, so I thought you'd catch that.<br />
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And watch what you call hypocrisy, there's no action being taken here, so that word doesn't even apply. We're talking about a Bible verse and I was giving a hypothetical situation to illustrate a point.<br />
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I don't really want to touch on WW2 because I might offend someone, I'm not a fan of Jewish culture. The people are fine, but the society and the religion is just about as racist as you can get short of being an extremist, and that's all I've got to say about that. Infer what you will.<br />
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Also, in my first paragraph I wasn't being inconsistent with my point, I was paraphrasing YOUR point.<br />
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ANYWAYS, this discussion has degenerated into arguments about arguments. Regardless of all the sidetracks posted here, my only point is that given the context of the verse we're discussing, it doesn't make sense to say that it's talking about anything other than it's surface meaning, victory through non-resistance. Obviously it's open to individual interpretation, I'm just saying there are quite a few other verses in the same book that are definitely saying that you should love your enemy and not resist those who would do you harm. Not saying my opinion on the matter is more valid than yours is, mine is just founded in the context of the actual Bible. Whether your Sikh friend's notions on the matter are founded in anything factual, I have no idea. But it wouldn't be the first time I've heard an historical "fact" made up simply to show some Bible verse in a new light, to conveniently make it fit a certain point of view. Christians are famous for spreading such hearsay.

I never said anything about imprisoning for punishment. YOU did, and the irony is that we had agreed on SEPARATING "criminals" rather than bearing a second slap, which as I said supports the no second cheek turning thesis of this story!!! At one time exile to Australia was used for separating, remember your history? And I NEVER NEVER said I was fond of t.he prison system..it sucks, OK? Don't misquote me and then beat me up for it or I'll point out how irrational your rant is since NOW you say give violent criminals your cloak and DON'T separate them [hypocrisy], then follow it up with an example of pleading with a robber to take more and say that's NOT advice you are giving others to follow. It sure IS and that would tell ME, the criminal, how STUPID people are and go rob someone else PDQ.since there's no repercussion. Take candy from babies.<br />
The dismissal of two world wars, the second of which you have STILL to address, is simplistic at best. History is my weak suit, but the assassination of the Archduke was not the ONLY precipitating cause of WWI, and we'd be doing more than peaking German if Hitler had prevailed [can you say "Jew" - there wouldn't be any] but argue 20th century wars in an appropriate forum, not here, same for your conspiracy theories. Jesus, the One I speak of , is long dead and you are off topic to ramble about everything that irritates you about today's world particularly how the USA gave Muslims cause for terrorism. Shouldn't THEY turn the other cheek? Lastly, your argument is inconsistent since in the first paragraph you give your interpretation [presumably because it's better than mine] of why He advised not getting your *** kicked by Romans - then later say He WASN'T doing that. Get some sleep....

No complaints. In retrospect I should've put Occam's Razor to this *****, and cut it down to maybe a paragraph about why it doesn't make much sense for Jesus to say, "Turn the other cheek," when what he really meant was, "Keep your eyes on the ground and your head down, otherwise you might get your *** killed by a Roman," especially considering the context it's in. Maybe another paragraph about other parts in the Bible where Jesus is talking about non-resistance to evil in the same sort of fashion. But I'm only sleeping 2 hours a day now, so I've got a lot of extra time to kill. ;)<br />
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In my book, the biggest terrorists on the planet right now are politicians and businessmen, who are deliberately using the "retaliation is good" attitude to instigate a very profitable war. I won't get into the evidence for considering the London subway bombing a false flag op, I'm not interested in doing research on such topics anymore, I've seen enough to know what our "masters" are up to, and these days I focus my energy on more positive things. It'd be easy to drown in despair paying attention to what our governments are doing with their power, and I've done enough of that. There's plenty of information out there if you're interested in seeing the evidence, I'm sure this post is gonna be long enough as-is! :P<br />
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I admittedly don't care much for history. Looking at the spin put on the stories we get fed by the media and education system today, I seriously doubt the accuracy of such historical accounts, when those in power had much better control over the information people got. After all, the victor writes the history books, and there was no such thing as the internet in those days. But to be honest, seeing how we've squandering our freedom on decadence, only to simply give it away to government in trade for the illusion of security, I don't see how we'd be much worse off if we were all speaking German.<br />
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Getting back on topic though, none of those wars would have happened in the first place if the attitude of "turn the other cheek" had prevailed at the time. One Archduke would've been assassinated, am I right? Just like the towers and the subway "terrorist" attacks. If people weren't so happy to go to war in retaliation, then these attacks wouldn't even happen anymore. If we forgave Al Queda and went about our business without allowing ourselves to be terrorized (and you must admit, the US has given Muslims plenty of cause to BE terrorists, so why not be the bigger country for once?), then these attacks would lose all their power. After all, you think the goal behind these attacks is to knock down a couple of buildings? You think they care if they kill a few thousand people? The ones orchestrating all this are laughing at the terrified bleating of the sheeple for increased security and retaliation, because that's EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED IN THE FIRST PLACE. More money and more control. War is extremely profitable.<br />
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As for my second last paragraph on the justice system we are so fond of, you made it clear that you think those people who behave in a socially unacceptable manner should be locked in prison as punishment. My point is that this accomplishes nothing, in the vast majority of cases you're not stopping the behavior, you're making it worse. In the long run I think it would be better to "offer them your cloak as well" instead.<br />
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Lets look at a specific hypothetical situation. Imagine you just robbed a guy for his wallet and gold watch for some quick drug money, beating him severely in a dark alley somewhere. Then as you're walking away, the guy calls you back, and gives you the money that he had in his pocket, saying that he's sorry for how hard your life must be to force you into such a circumstance. How would that make you feel about what you'd done? The purpose of that man's life is obviously higher than simply gathering more money and personal possessions, and he's accomplished something important. He has planted a seed of remorse in your heart.<br />
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Now I'm not saying that's the way you or anyone else should live their lives, everyone's got their own path, and they should do what they think is right. If you believe your gold watch and money are more important than the life of that dirty subhuman criminal, by all means kick him in the teeth and send him to jail for a few years. The point of all this is simply that I'm pretty sure Jesus wasn't just talking about a good way to stay alive when he said, "Turn the other cheek." He was trying to revolutionize the world, and was talking about a greater good than just passively taking a beating from those with power, a higher path then retaliation and punishment. He was talking about non-resistance to evil, and unconditional love. "Love thy enemy," and all that.<br />
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That's how I interpret it, anyways. Who knows what the guy really said, all those books were written over 50 years after his death.

MidnightWhite: did I say I disagreed with the "left=weird" thesis? NO. Really heavyc raised it for the reason of the fineries of slapping, back, right, whatever. and I stand by my statement in disagreement with BOTH of you that without looking at the target you will end up flailing wildly, probably making a fool of yourself when you miss! Right or left., open or closed.<br />
Thanks for sharing your ideas about September 11, 2001. I did NOT invite them or even mention the incident - you did. I'm not touching your comments even by proxy....I asked about Iraq and Afghanistan which appear to have something to do with supporting terrorists. Did you hear about the hotel bombing in India a year ago and the London subway or were they also false attacks and there are no such thing as terrorists?<br />
I notice you avoided entirely WWI and WWII. Why? If we'd turned the other cheek would Hitler have learned remorse and turned to the path of love? I think not...<br />
Your final paragraph essentially agrees with me that some people need to be held "away from society". This is not turning the other cheek to show your LOVE, it's common sense avoidance of further injury by stopping the culprit ASAP and if anything supports my thesis of NOT turning the other cheek, so what seems to be your main complaint?

I think what heavyc is saying is that you don't have to BE face to face to strike someone on the right side with the back of the right hand, you can do it offhandedly and impersonally. And it wasn't that long ago, (less than a hundred years) that our own education system forced leftys to be right handed in their schoolwork because it was "weird/unacceptable".<br />
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As for the War on Terror, I thought most people these days were aware that the attack on 9/11 was orchestrated by elements within the US government itself to instigate those wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, a false flag operation much like the majority of terrorist attacks that have occurred on US soil such as Oklahoma City. To me, it seems that it would be impossible for a truck bomb on the OUTSIDE of that building to have created the damage pattern that it did, with central columns being more damaged than ones that were near the truck. And the evidence against 9/11 being anything but false flag is just staggering, the most obvious of which is the controlled demolition of the 3 WTC buildings. FFS, WTC 7 wasn't even hit by a plane! No other steel structure has EVER collapsed in such a manner, at free fall speeds into it's own footprint, and there have been numerous other fires on other similar structures that were far hotter than those on 9/11. Not to mention the fact that NORAD has never had such a colossal failure to respond in it's entire history. Some terrorists in a cave have the power to get NORAD to stand down? Ask **** Cheney, he's the one who was in charge that day.<br />
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So yes, if you ask me, I don't think we should be so quick to rush off to war against terrorists in retaliation. Iraq had nothing to do with Al Queda in the first place, and the war in Afghanistan is just an atrocity, with around 2500 civilians being killed just last year, 2000 the year before that. Of course, the US government blames the Taliban for those deaths, but the bottom line is they wouldn't be dead at all if the US wasn't there.<br />
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Now, on to the prison system. Have you ever been there? I have, and I can tell you that there's nothing rehabilitative about it, and those rapists, muderers, thieves, and thugs generally are released WORSE than they were when they were incarcerated. You'd be amazed at how often I'd see a guy get released only to be right back inside a month later, another person beaten, another car stolen, bank robbed, etc. More people hurt. But there is no interest in HELPING these people to stop their behavior, the focus is on PUNISHMENT because that's what people want to see, they want vengeance against the one who harmed them, and it does no one any good whatsoever. I'm sure if there was a focus on understanding the reasons WHY people behave in a criminal fashion, with the intention of creating a system of PREVENTION and REHABILITATION then we'd actually get somewhere. Locking people up in a cage is torturous, inhumane, and while I can see a need to hold people away from society while they are being rehabilitated, it does more harm than good to do it as a punishment.<br />
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And like heavyc stated, the following verses in Matthew put that "turn the other cheek" verse into context. Jesus is talking about non-violent resistance, beating evil with good, curing the insanity of hatred with love and acceptance, and proving that when someone tries to harm you with evil, they have no power over you if you don't let them. In my opinion, that was the story behind his crucifixion as well, since he did nothing to defend himself from the allegations that were against him. He died trying teach us that we don't have to be afraid of death and pain, that the way to "heaven" is the way of love and acceptance. I know that view isn't supported at all by that Bible, it's just my impression of what REALLY happened within the context of the rest of his life.<br />
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****, I made this longer than the original article, sorry about that!

heavyc: thank you for your comment.<br />
I have no basis to agree or disagree with the notion that in biblical times people thought left-handedness was "weird/unacceptable". If true it only proves how stupid they were at that time!<br />
Unless your eyes are focused on the person you are slapping [face to face] it makes NO difference whether the front or back of the hand is used - you have to LOOK AT the target to hit it! Finally, as an insult, the LEFT back of the hand could be used to indicate superiority when back-slapping the left cheek, so not one of the "points" you made is valid.<br />
If you READ my story, you'd see Jesus' principle intent was, as you and I agree, "to keep the soldiers from overtly abusing people", as the death of resisting the first blow would have incited.<br />
I'm sure you consider Bruxy Cavey is the next prophet, but if you polled EP I'd bet VERY few, including myself, has ever heard of him or his opinions.<br />
Most importantly, your position would mean the abolition of all prisons, release of all rapists to repeat their crimes, murderers to kill again, and any other socially unacceptable behavior to be repeated without punishment. Spend some time in a prison and then tell me you want to turn the other cheek! Oh yes, then there was WWI and WWII which YOU would have prevented. Sprichts du Deutsch?

the passage specifically says "if someone strike you on the right cheek," and the distinction is made for a reason. In Jesus' time people were assumed to be right handed (being a lefty was weird/unacceptable). So to strike a person on the right cheek with a right hand, a person would have to use the back of their hand. Slapping someone with the back of your hand means you don't have to look at them face to face; you don't have to see the other person as an equal human being. Give the other cheek to slap and the right handed person does an open hand slap, which is personal. An open hand slap is also a slap that a man gives another man. Jesus was saying you can make your enemy see you as a human being without attacking back. <br />
Jesus makes two other points following that give the same message: <br />
"And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well." (Matthew 5:40) It's like asking them if material goods and money are so important to them that they would prefer it over a relationship with person they are suing.<br />
"If a soldier demands you carry his pack for a mile, carry it for two miles." (Matthew 5:41) Roman soldiers could stop you and make you carry their bag, no matter what you were doing. But, to keep the soldiers from overtly abusing people, or making them travel too far from their homes. he civilian only had to carry the bag a mile. Carry the bag another mile and you are doing for the soldier by choice. It gives an opportunity for a relationship to form; two men walking together as opposed to a soldier and the civilian he is harassing.<br />
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this is what Bruxy Cavey told me one Sunday at The Meeting House - www.themeetinghouse.ca

Thank you for your comments, sosilly and BodhiSvaha. It is inherent in your non-retaliation stance that USA not be involved in the "War on Terror". What say you to the involvements we have in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do we let terrorists destroy America one bombing at a time by turning the other cheek and NOT retaliating?

I agree with sosilly<br />
also<br />
If everyone retaliated all the time we would destroy ourselves<br />
if everyone turned their cheek all the time<br />
we would have no more reasons to have to turn the other cheek

I have always believed that what Jesus meant by this was that being hit in the face is a physical humiliation, meant to tempt a retaliation. But turning the other cheek is a way of refusing to lower yourself to their level. He did not say be a doormat, just to not give in to the anger and need to get revenge, which takes more strength and self control then just popping someone back.