Faith – The Right Cheek

by Brian Kelly

Jesus began His teaching on retaliation, the returning of Like for like, by saying, “Do not resist”—that is, do not argue with, do not contend with—“the one who is evil.”

Now the word ‘evil’ really must be understood.  It is not Texas Chainsaw Massacre evil.  Evil, the Hebrew Ra, is the opposite of Good, Tov.  And Tov simply means functional.  Like with, say, a watch—if its wheels are all turning together properly, etc., then the watch is good—functional.  If, however, any of the wheels are off-center, its gears not fitted right, then the watch is Ra, meaning Not functional, incapable of doing what it was intended for.

Do not contend with the one who is Off-center, Not functioning…

“But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Most of us are right-handed and swing with our right.  And so, if we are face to face with our adversary, how would he strike our right cheek, which is to his left, with his right hand?

With the back of it.  Twice as insulting than with the flat of the hand.

No matter the insult, Jesus is saying, no matter the slander, no matter how great the In Your Face offense, do not return Like for like, Wrong for wrong,  and let another take your peace, your Whole-ness.  Do not get drawn into that.  But stand easy.  Stand firm.  For God—Who vindicates you—Is Near you…

“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

The tunic was the undergarment, and even the poorest man had more than one.  The cloak, much heavier, was the outer-garment, and was worn as a robe during the day and used as a blanket at night.  Now, unlike the tunic, a Jew would have only one cloak.  And so it was Jewish law that a man’s tunic could be taken in pledge, but not his cloak.  If it were, it had to be returned by nightfall, for the cloak well may be the Only covering a man has to sleep in.

So the cloak was something that could not be taken from a man.  He had a Right to it.  The Right to keep it.  A Right that could not be taken from him.

What Jesus is saying is that it is Not enough to not return Like for like, and still Hold on to your Right to resentment, to bitterness, to hatred, to not ever forgive.  You must Let it All go:  the cloak as well.

Keeping your mouth shut amounts to Nothing, if on your face you are hostile.  Holding your tongue Does No good, if you’re tearing yourself up within, if you’re holding on to your Sense of Right, your Right to Return—one way or another—Like for Like.

Now would one wish himself ill?  No.  But that is what we do when we resent, when we hate, when we will not forgive, when we hold to Our Right to return Like for like.  We are saying:

I do not want to be Made well, I do not want to Look within, Or Think on this, Or know Why—why this person Is In My Face: There is No Reason why, It just Is, And It’s Wrong, and I’m gonna…(teeth grit)…Set him Straight, I’m gonna Tear his Throat Out…Who does he Think He Is…

Ahh…Who does he think He is…

Interesting.  Quite revealing.  And there you have it.  By one’s own words:  Guilty…

The Sick lashing out at the Sick.

Jesus is not Burdening us.  He is pointing out the Way.  A way that is practical.  A way that is functional.  The way of health.  Of peace…

Of whole-ness.