Jesus Didn’t Mean What He Said? Pt.1

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” Luke 6:29 NLT

Many of my fellow Evangelicals have selective obedience. The verses in Scripture that are bantered about and hurled at unbelievers and believers alike have to do mostly with sex, submission of women, tithing (giving 10% of gross income to the church), swearing. drinking, smoking, and other “sins” those same Evangelicals probably don’t struggle with. It makes them feel righteous and holy to use the Bible as a verbal assault rifle.

Then Jesus comes along and has to muck everything up by saying things that are difficult to explain away. Like the above verse.

I have had other Bible believers actually tell me that Jesus didn’t mean it the way it was written. Mainly from believers that hold to right to “bear arms”. So what did Jesus mean?

He meant that if you are hit by someone, let them hit you again. He meant if someone punches you in the face, let them do it twice. He meant if someone verbally assaults you, stand there in silence and take it. He meant do not resist physical and verbal attacks.

He meant what he said. But why?

So that the glory of God is revealed in us. Jesus did not resist arrest in the garden, he endured verbal and physical assault without a word, and stood before Roman leaders without speaking in His defense. So that the glory of God would be revealed in Him.

And I am sure people were affected by that. He did not respond “in the flesh” but “in the Spirit”.

But He is not done. He says that if someone takes your coat, give him your shirt too. In other words if someone steals from you, let them and in fact give them more than they are stealing.

Why? I think because the inanimate property we own is not worth the struggle to keep it and violence against another human (even if he or she is taking mine/your stuff) does not bring glory to God.

We are not to return evil for evil.

Reflecting the unconditional love and mercy of the Father in Jesus to those in the world should be our number one priority.

Tough stuff to wrap ones mind around.

17 thoughts on “Jesus Didn’t Mean What He Said? Pt.1

  1. There is another exegesis for this verse. It’s something like: Jesus is a defiant radical ready for a fight if that’s what you want.

    The original King James version of the Bible Matthew 5:39 says: But I say vnto you, that yee resist not euill: but whosoeuer shall smite thee on thy right cheeke, turne to him the other also.

    In a culture where everyone must be right handed it’s interesting to note that the first cheek to be slapped is the right cheek. It must have been a backhanded slap; the kind you would give your slave or your woman, but not an equal. Turning the other cheek could be interpreted as Jesus saying “I’m your equal. If you want to hit me hit me like a man, and we can go from there.”

    It’s like going the extra mile. Again in Matthew 5:41 And whosoeuer shall compell thee to goe a mile, goe with him twaine.

    Roman law stated that if a centurion wanted you to carry his belongings you must do it for the distance of one mile. If you went the extra mile you made him break the law. Is that selfless, or a challenge?

    I agree that we are not to return evil for evil, but Christians are also called to stand up for the Truth (to be willing to die for it, not kill for it), to proclaim the Gospel, to challenge the oppressor.

    1. Jesus could have fought and won. In fact, He could have called a legion of Angels to rescue Him fro the cross, but He didn’t. Retaliation, either verbally, or physically does not seem to be the path Jesus takes. Since we are His follwers, it is our responsibilty to reflect Him in how we treat people in the world around us.

      I appreciate and thank you for your comments. Peace to you.

      1. I would remind you of the Gospel reading in many of the catholic churches last Sunday was the scourging of the temple:

        13¶ And the Iewes Passeouer was at hand, & Iesus went vp to Hierusalem

        14 And found in the Temple those that sold oxen, and sheepe, and doues, and the changers of money, sitting.

        15 And when he had made a scourge of small cordes, he droue them all out of the Temple, and the sheepe & the oxen, and powred out the changers money, and ouerthrew the tables,

        16 And said vnto them that sold doues Take these things hence, make not my fathers house an house of merchandize.

        17 And his disciples remembred that it was written, The zeale of thine house hath eaten me vp.

        That sounds pretty active to me.

        Once again though, I agree that we are not to return evil for evil, but Christians are also called to stand up for the Truth (to be willing to die for it, not kill for it), to proclaim the Gospel, to challenge the oppressor.

        What is the phrase: Wise as serpents, gentle as doves?

  2. I read a great quote about the “turn the other cheek” thing. I wish I could remember where it came from so I could attribute it, and hopefully will remember when I’m not thinking so hard about it. Anyway, the writer’s take on it was: when you’ve been slapped on one cheek, by turning the other cheek to the person you are making him look you square in the face. He may indeed slap you again but he is now more aware of your humanity, not just a punching bag. And it may just make him less willing to slap you again. That has stayed with me for a long time, has kind of a Gandhi-like quality to it IMHO.

  3. I’ve heard it explained that the turning the other cheek and walking the extra mile were subtle forms of civil disobedience that he taught his followers, to protect them and/or to get their oppressors in trouble if done in a public place with witnesses.

    It was legal to slap someone, but illegal to backhand them. So if a person is slapped, and they turn the other cheek, and if the slapper wants to hit again, it’s likely to be with the back of the hand. It was also legal for the Roman soldiers to get a person to carry their stuff for a mile, but no more. So if a person carried it the extra mile, the Roman could potentially get in trouble for breaking that law. I’m saying this based on memories from two sermons from about 10 years ago. But that was the gist.

    So, it is possible that Jesus didn’t mean things the way they sound in isolated passages, because we’re missing the cultural and political context.

    1. Possibly, but I think that idea is the same, to practice non-violence in every situation, whether through civil disobedience ie Martin Luther King Jr. or in personal relationships.

      Thanks for your great comment.

  4. And the assailent has to use the right hand – which is the one reserved for equals. I learned that from Walter Wink’s excellent little book “Jesus and non-violence”, which is maybe where you found it Scottmac? 🙂

    (Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way by Walter Wink
    ISBN-10: 0800636090
    ISBN-13: 978-0800636098)

  5. The writings of the sermon on the mount come from the teachings of the Essenes. The one group that we do not see referred to in the New Testament but who followed most of the things that he taught. (They were not following him as they were there first.) The instructions that he gave to his disciples regarding one garment, one pair of shoes, no money were the requirements for all Essenes and they must follow the rules of the Sermon on the Mount for three years before they could be full fledged members. All money was held in common as was true of the first church. The main difference was in their treatment of women. Jesus had many women friends and had no problems with touching and healing them the Essenes was almost completely male. The other is Jesus told his disciples they were not even allowed to carry a staff which was the weapons that the Essenes carried to defend themselves though they were never allowed to use it as an offensive weapon. The important thing is to realize that Jesus and his followers were expected to observe as all of the Essenes did the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. They did not do like Christians do today, immediately begin to make up reasons that they do not need to observe them. If they did they were immediately thrown out of the Essenes. Are we really Christians. If a Christian must follow the Sermon on the Mount to be a follower of Jesus how many of us qualify. He that loves God will hate and despise wealth, He that loves wealth hates and despises God.

    1. Thanks for reading my blog and commenting as well. I appreciate what you have added to this discussion, it brings a bit more clarity. Also, I would agree that if we had to follow the Sermon on the Mount to quality as a Christian, we would all be in a lot of trouble. Thank God for His grace in Jesus, He alone qualifies us.

      Peace to you.

  6. Jesus always means what he said the way it is written when it has to deal with other people’s sin. But when it is about me, of course he doesn’t mean that literally. ;P
    Ah, the wonders of personal interpretations and making Christianity over in our own image.
    Christianity is much harder and more painful than we like to let it be.

    1. It is easier to condemn the abortionist as a murderer, since most of us are not abortion doctors, than to condemn as a murderer the good Christian that does not have a problem tearing down that character of the President or his wife.

  7. To me turning the other cheek can mean showing someone you are not taking it personal and are looking for other reasons that they might be slapping you. Offering your shirt also can mean you recognize the one who stole your coat might be stealing as a last resort because they need it more than you. A main contentious point in today’s (maybe for ever) christian thinking is discerning the priority of personal responsibility vs. grace. Judging other’s circumstances and throwing stones without knowing the real reasons behind their actions is too easy and not very Jesus like. But even when we do know the reasons there doesn’t seem to be much christian grace for those we judge to be sinners without remorse; yet Jesus, Himself, asked forgiveness for those who were crucifying Him without regret. Jesus can and should radically change the way we think.

    1. Thank you for visiting and for your comments. I was actually thinking along this line when I put the post together. So your thoughts add an interesting dimension. When it comes to our approach to people, I would rather err on the side of love rather then judgement.

      Peace to you.

  8. Know, turning the other cheek for the person to slap with you the back of his hand, which was demeaning to the slapper, or to use the hand they wiped their ass with which was shameful as well. So it presented the attacker with a situation where they would lose a lot of face and therefore be shamed.

    1. Ok. So I guess you are saying that this verse does not pertain to Christians today?

      Thanks for sharing. Peace to you.

    2. But don’t we have to also read this verse in light of “love your enemy” or “do unto others as you would have done unto you”?
      When I read turn the other cheek, I also have to keep the other teachings of Jesus in mind. And I find loving my enemy and doing unto others means there is more to it than just don’t bring shame to them. If I love someone, I will not do harm. If I don’t want someone to harm me, I will not harm them–physically, verbally, etc.

  9. I believe there is a reason; Jesus gives that second example of giving away the shirt too. It can be confusing when you add all the other, “what ifs”, but it’s clear that God calls us to be radical. As we are fearfully and wonderfully made, most would react in an earthly way. We would defend ourselves and perhaps even strike back. That is the natural response. God calls us to the supernatural life. I often pray for God’s protection, but as I ponder on this passage I realize that if he is protecting me then there is no situation where His name can be glorified in the eyes of that person striking or stealing. I think when you realize it’s not about you, and then you can understand it better. This does not mean you will be able to react in this manner. Often times in ministry we are smacked down and yet we get back up and continue serving God. I encourage people to expand their thought process from just that physical slap to the emotional and spiritual slaps we often receive. As always I thank God for His mercy, for I fail and He prevails.

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