I do not think it means what you think it means.

1987 - MGM

If you’re a fan of “The Princess Bride” you just imagined the actor Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya delivering that line. He said it because another character kept saying something was inconceivable when, clearly, it was conceivable.

That’s how I felt when I read an explanation of the “turn the other cheek” scripture in Matthew and Luke. Like Vizzini realizing he had it all wrong. “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

I always thought that meant that if someone hurt you, you should take it and let them go on hurting you. But check this out. According to author and pastor John Ortberg, the explanation goes a bit deeper. In Bible times it was inappropriate to do anything important with your left hand. You wouldn’t eat with your left hand and you wouldn’t strike anyone with your left hand. So in order to hit someone on the right cheek, you would have to backhand them with your right hand. Ultra insulting!

Now, having been backhanded on the right cheek, you “turn the other cheek.” And look at that. Your enemy can no longer backhand you. He’ll have to deal with you another way. So it’s not about letting someone continue to abuse you–it’s about refusing to run away or retaliate.

Say someone criticizes you at work. Your instinct might be to either escape or to point out your co-workers many flaws that make yours pale in comparision. Turning the other cheek might include something like acknowledging that you do have shortcomings while pointing out that criticism is less helpful than an extra pair of hands making sure things go right.

Or perhaps you’re a writer and your manuscript has been rejected. Again. Your impulse might be to throw up your hands and decide you misunderstood God when he called you to write or to label the rejecter as an obvious fool who wouldn’t know a good idea if it bit him on the behind. Your turn the other cheek response might run more along the lines of considering whether there was a reason for the rejection, improving the manuscript and finding someone who better fits your genre and style to try again.

Turn the other cheek. Suddenly, I hope it means exactly what I think it means.

2 thoughts on “I do not think it means what you think it means.

  1. I love when a Bible scripture is clarified – and it’s usually done by understanding the culture of the day. Francine Rivers “Mark of the Lion” series helped me to understand the culture that Paul lived in while writing his letters and I gained a much deeper revelation of his words. I love the Word of God!

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