Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Turn The Other Cheek?

We had an interesting discussion last Sunday in class that included a look at some controversial instruction from Jesus, in Luke 6, about loving enemies and 'turning the other cheek' when assaulted.  The teacher didn't gloss over it, but I don't think it was fully explored either.  

Coincidentally (or not) my son, Tyler, had an altercation with 2 high school kids from the neighborhood the same day.  He was jumped and hit several times.  He was outnumbered and walked away with some bumps and cuts.  When he got home, my wife noticed something was wrong (I had already confronted him about being late, not noticing anything was wrong).  He gradually, and grudgingly, told us what happened.  He didn't want my involvement.  He wanted to handle it himself with the guys individually.  His 'street sense' of what needed to happen was:  no adults, one-on-one revenge, maintain image in the neighborhood.  I talked with him about how revenge was a dangerous cycle.  How he needed to stay away from that part of the neighborhood.  Then, even with the passage about turning the other cheek still fresh in my mind, I gave him the best instruction I know on how to subdue an opponent by striking or choking.  Tyler asked, as he has before, about taking boxing lessons.  I had told him in the past to do some research on it and get back with me, which never happened.  This time I did the research.  I found a place called Core Combat Sports that teaches boxing, martial arts and MMA.  We're going to check out all the classes and see what we're interested in doing together. 

I think there are some positives that can develop out of this.  Time with my son.  Physical training and development for both of us.  Confidence that you can handle yourself if the situation arises.  But is this biblical?  What exactly does Jesus mean by turning the other cheek?  Our teacher stated that it didn't mean you were a punching bag, or would put up with physical abuse.  But what does it mean?  

And, the hardest part, how should we instruct our kids to handle themselves when confronted with violent bullies who want to harm them?  I personally don't know any parent who would say:  just turn the other cheek son.  That doesn't mean fighting back is right either though.


  1. Thanks for bringing this up... I was wrestling with similar thoughts during the lesson. I think it takes more courage to 'let some things go' then it does to fight back. The tricky part is we aren't born with that maturity and I think courage is built over time. I kept running the scenario through my head in class (that you actually encountered with Tyler) of what to do about a bully (or two). The answer will be different for each situation -- you have to know your son (Nathan in my case) and understand where he is as a man -- can he handle letting this go? Does he know he's capable of physically defending himself if he needs to? I think turning the other cheek implies that you *could defend yourself but choose not to for a greater purpose. As we raise our children, there is a period of time when they don't know what they are capable of physically and aren't sure of themselves. When they reach the point that turning the other cheek isn't another way of saying don't fight back, just run... but instead is saying 'Is that all you've got!'

    1. Yeah, I do agree that it takes more 'strength' to resist fighting back, even when the fight is only verbal. I've struggled mightily at times to control my verbal and emotional response to different family members in my own house.

      I think Tyler exhibited a type of this behavior. He walked away due to being outnumbered. It seemed that the attackers were not interested in continuing if there was no retaliation. That may be part of the answer. Don't escalate conflict, remove energy from it.

      What if your response is one of fear? Wouldn't a bully thrive in an environment of fear? Does it matter?

      I like your comment 'Is that all you've got!', but I wonder if that's even the right attitude.

      And, again, with the kids there are so many issues: self-esteem, self-confidence, fear of being hurt, fear of hurting someone else.

      Does turning the other cheek allow for self-defense?
      I don't think there's any record of Jesus practicing self-defense. However, he was also able to walk through angry mobs untouched.

    2. More thoughts...I don't think running away from a fight is necessarily wrong. Fight or flight includes flight. There may be times when escaping physical conflict is the best way to handle it. Also, there is certainly a different dynamic at work when you feel that you CAN defend yourself, but choose not to - or at least choose to not retaliate - than there would be if inaction was a result of fear. I do think your comment of 'is that all you've got' exhibits the former.

  2. I see what you did there...your son's name is Tyler...fight club...very clever ;)

    Great conversation starters here though! Jesus definitely isn't calling us to be weak and afraid. I liked someone's comment on turning the other cheek being a way to say "is that all you got?"

    I've also heard it said that during Jesus' time, the Romans would slap a Jew with the back of their hand, but another Roman with the palm of their hand. This was a way of demeaning the Jews and other races as less than human. So turning the other cheek would be a way to goad them into striking them again, but with their palm this time. Akin to a defiant, "if you're going to smack me, then here let me help and you're going to have to acknowledge me as an equal" Also, going the extra mile is designed to cut out that taking advantage of me idea. You're forcing me to carry your stuff like a slave? Ok, sounds good, here let me go two miles and cut the feet out from under you :)

    These are things that can be hard for adults to do, and definitely hard for teens and children. And there you have to worry about how they take it emotionally and physically (since it's harder to stand up for yourself). Very interesting thoughts.

    1. Interesting Roman history there.

      What you're saying sounds like the 'heaping burning coals' on someones head by doing good when they don't deserve it, from Romans 12. There is some very similar language there also. Bless those who persecute you. Don't repay evil for evil. Don't take revenge. Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.

      Those things sound great.
      How in heaven's name could they be accomplished?

      Even if I was able to drag myself to do it, it would be totally forced. My heart wouldn't be in it. Is that OK? Is grudging obedience approved of by God? I don't think it's the ideal, but it's probably still good.

      I still just can't wrap my will around that though.
      Am I just functioning in the flesh too much.
      Could you be hit in the face and not attack?

      As for walking the extra mile - I get irritated when my wife asks me to get her a glass of water when she's fully able to get it herself. My first thought is - lazy. My second thought is - she wants me to show her I care about her.
      I do it. Grudgingly.

  3. Totally forced isn't always a bad thing...just because I don't want to do something doesn't mean it isn't the right thing to do. Now I need to eat my own words ;)

    Our will is inherently selfish, hence MY WILL! I want to do what I want to do and everyone else can eat it. Like you said, you think she's selfish for asking you to do something she could do and lazy. Flip the coin, how many times do I ask her to do something I could do? Is it laziness sometimes? Sure can be. Other times it's just hey could you help out for a second and make it possible to keep doing this? Other time's it's to see how much they care. Never know for sure. But each time we do it, we get a chance to examine our heart and motives and bend our heart towards a heart of service instead of a heart that wants its own way all the time.

    The big things seem so big to us because we aren't yet faithful in the small things. A marathon is only a daunting task to the guy who doesn't run very much.

    1. Your last 2 sentences grabbed me.
      I wonder if I was more faithful in the 'small' things - although they probably don't seem small to me or I wouldn't be so unfaithful in them - I would see 'larger' things (like getting hit in the face maybe) as easier to deal with. Maybe I should focus on getting real comfortable with little steps, get real consistent with ordinary, everyday, routine issues (like getting my wife a glass of water everyday) and I will eventually find my life transformed and the 'marathon' achievable. This is the process I advocate with exercise. I don't care what you do, just be consistent at it. Then you can build on that.

    2. We are all convinced that many big and admirable things would be easy. Yet God says that we are not ready for the big things if we aren't faithful in the small things. I know tons of people who say, "If I won the lottery, I'd give 90% of it to the church!" but they won't tithe 10% of the money God's already given them.

      In the work world, you don't give someone great responsibility immediately, you give them smaller jobs and they build up their abilities and prove their track record of being able to handle things.

      I've once heard it said that dying for Jesus is the easy thing, living for him is much harder. That's what I'm trying to get at :)

    3. Yeah, kinda like 'I'd take a bullet for my wife, but she can get her own glass of water'.

    4. Lol, exactly! There's glory in taking the bullet (and it's instantaneous and no maintenance required!). That maintenance thing is a big kicker.

  4. Going along with the glass of water thought -- I've been brought to Ephesians 5 several times recently...

    "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body."

    Particularly the feeding and caring part -- I need to stop thinking about serving my wife as, well, service ... we are one flesh!

    1. I think it's interesting, and seemingly self-serving, to think about loving yourself by and through loving your wife. That almost makes it sound pragmatic, doesn't it?

    2. I think it is striving to see things as they really are...the husband and wife make one flesh, one entity (now obviously they aren't the same person and there are some needs for individuality from time to time) and we it's not selfish to maintain one's own body and care for one's own body. In fact we're called to take care of our body, so how much more so the marriage that is a picture of God's relationship with us?