Such clarity has been brought to my understanding of Matthew 5:38-39 when Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Often the understanding of this is if you are physically abused, you are to endure it. But this teaching has nothing to do with physical abuse as I have just learned. It deals with verbal abuse – a verbal offense. This truly opens up a very different response to those who verbally hurt us.
To turn the other cheek is to follow what the wise saying of Proverbs says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11). Additionally, we see that it is better to be a person of knowledge who uses words with restraint, and being a person of understanding reveals that we have an even-tempered maturity. (Proverbs 17:27).
We learn that when we are offended by another person, to overlook it, use few words in response and keep an even temper about yourself. If anything, it is best when hurt verbally to use no words at all! Be quiet, do not charge forward to make your point or get back at the person. Turn the other cheek – look beyond the offense. True love for another is one who seeks to understand the perpetrator. Often our choice to understand can turn the tide of the disagreement to a place of reconciliation and unity.
This takes maturity. It is not easy. When everything in our life is peaceful and no conflict is facing us, we can say a hearty “Amen!” to this truth. But when the offense comes, this truth is hard to follow. This is only fully learned when practiced. Often we fail at first. But the good news is, this new response of love can be learned. After a while, it actually feels good to overlook an offense, seek to understand, because this opens our hearts to love the unlovely and give grace to the offender. We are then able to carry out what Peter writes, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Now that you have read this and been enlightened (hopefully), expect a practice test. It’s coming!
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