Contemplating Jesus

THE OTHER CHEEK

Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

For every person who suffers hurt from others – not just physically, but verbally and emotionally – Jesus teaches a non-violent response.

The way of non-violence is decidedly harder to practice than the more natural “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” the ancient honour code reinforced in the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:19-20).  But Jesus’ mandate was the preservation of peace,  peace that can only flow from an interior state.  To have recourse against others’ attacks through similar means only breeds an insidious spread of darkness and division.  Responding with retribution is to take up relationship with violence and impose a position of personal superiority.

As evident in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was clearly counter-culture.  He proposed that there was strength in weakness and suffering, and comfort and belonging for those who upheld what was right.  By choosing peace and practicing non-violence, God can live more fully in the world: that the ways of the heart, even though tormented, battered and bruised, can find solace and grace from deciding to beat to the different drum of love, forgiveness and prayer.  “Bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you” are Jesus’ directives (Luke 6:27). His advice, however hard, not only benefits the one who precipitated the violence, but the one who is the recipient.  It directs the energy of retribution into one of healing and reconciliation in the hearts of the victimized.

Jesus’ greatest example of this teaching was as the object of hatred, cruelty, misunderstanding, manipulation and fear from those who betrayed him, mocked him, beat him and nailed him to the cross.  “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also,” (Matthew 5:39).

Jesus didn’t negotiate for what would be best for himself under the circumstances; instead he stood firm in confidence of who he was, without defense, and in silence endured such extreme violence to be able to abnegate it.

By holding peace and non-violence in a radical tension with evil and hate, Jesus transformed its hold upon the world ensuring the alternative be not only spiritually essential, but Divinely powerful as it unleashed its efficacy.

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