Q: “What does it mean to turn the other cheek? There is confusion because some think that it has to do with being a doormat about everything, but I don’t agree with that. Could you bring some perspective to this subject?”
A: My understanding of Matthew 5:39 is that such instruction had to do with not returning like evil or judgment to one who greatly offends you. I say this because of what Matthew 5:38 tells us, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. It was clear that people were to respond with the same action and force towards those who offended them, but according to Jesus, we as believers were not to choose the base response of man, but choose the most excellent way as a means to establish a visible witness.
It is important to point out that the culture of that day was if someone smote you on the right cheek it was like spitting on you to show utter contempt and disregard for your person. This action had the same principle as challenging someone to a duel by slapping the person on the face with a glove. Actions that showed such grave contempt intended to ensure a response back by the one who was offended as a means to protect one’s honor. When we consider what is on the line when such contempt is being shown, it is not truth, righteousness, or justice, but our pride, and aggression that originates from pride never will have a good ending.
Jesus was basically saying when a person shows such contempt towards you, instead of responding out of pride to defend your honor, surprise the offender by showing yourself to be a better person by turning the other cheek. The Lord was establishing the protocol for how we are to handle ourselves before our enemies. Turning the other cheek is a point of grace and shows an excellent way to stop the cycle of destruction that takes place when people take personal offense towards the foolish, contrary actions of others. We must not allow the contempt of others to influence our actions. Godly love looks for opportunities to show grace for as Peter made clear in 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”
There is a big difference between turning the other cheek because of personal pride and standing against our enemy when the matters of heaven are under siege. The Bible is clear that we are to stand, withstand, and continue to stand. It is obvious that our faith, God’s pure Word (truth), and our testimonies are under attack, and when it comes to being a soldier in the arenas of this world, we are not to turn the other cheek, lay down before the enemy to be trodden down into the cesspool of the world, or allow our testimonies to be compromised by the insane philosophies of this age. We must stand firmly on the immovable ground of our faith towards God, withstand with the sword of His truth, and continue to stand strong because our testimony of Him allows us to live in expectancy of seeing His promises fulfilled.
I hope this clarifies this matter before you. It is clear we as Christians need to understand the real battleground so that we can choose our battles wisely in light of what is important to God and eternal in purpose.