Good morning Sheepdogs,
We will be meeting tonight July 18th at 7pm. We will have a good old fashioned bible study and discussion on Christ's "turn the other cheek" and how this has been misused against Christians.
What’s the second most misunderstood passage of Scripture? (The first: “Judge not, lest ye be judged” in Matthew 7:1, quoted by the otherwise biblically illiterate or indifferent, as a kind of pseudo-benediction on moral relativism.) I’d say second place goes to Matthew 5:39, “…if a man strike you on the right cheek, turn to him the other as well.”
Misunderstanding this passage has led to public prayers for “our so-called ‘enemies’”—as if Christ and his Church don’t have enemies both human and spiritual. Misunderstanding this passage has led to exhortations to a literally helpless pacifism—which would have puzzled Pope Pius V who summoned the Holy League to resist the invasion of Europe by the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto.
I raise this difficulty not merely as a biblical conundrum, such as “Did Adam and Eve have navels?” It seems that Christ requires complete disarmament in the face of moral, spiritual and physical evil, so it’s right to ask, “How can this be so?”
How can it be right to “turn the other cheek” with passive indifference when the sacred is traded for sacrilege? When truth is traded for lies? When purity is traded for perversion? When beauty is traded for ugliness? When worship is traded for entertainment? When sacred tradition is traded for novelty? When open-handed charity is traded for the heavy hand of the state?
Are we called to passive indifference when Western Civilization, the cradle of our faith and reason, is under attack by enemies secular, sectarian and spiritual? Are we called to mute helplessness when the honor of Christ’s Virgin-Bride, the Church, is assaulted?
Saint Thomas Aquinas admonishes us for such an imperceptive and myopic reading: “Sacred Scripture should be understood according to the way Christ and other holy persons followed it.”
Regarding “turn the other cheek,” Aquinas recalls us to John 18:23 when Jesus rebukes the guard who struck him. He also reminds us of Paul’s beating in Acts 16:22, “Christ did not turn his other cheek here; and Paul did not do so either. Accordingly, we should not think that Christ has commanded us to actually turn our physical cheek to one who has struck the other.” Paul didn’t remain silent when struck in Acts 23:3, but warned his abuser of divine judgment and retribution.
Following the example of Jesus and the saints, how is “turn the other cheek” to be understood? Surely not in passive indifference to evil, or in a feigned helplessness when the treasures of faith and reason are in danger of being lost.
Aquinas shows us the way: “To interpret the injunction of the Sermon on the Mount literally is to misunderstand it. This injunction signifies rather the readiness of the soul to bear, if it be necessary, such things and worse without bitterness to the attacker.” Our Lord is teaching us, by his words and example, not to collapse in the face of evil, but, rather, to resist evil while resisting the temptation to hate the evildoer.
Yes, as Jesus said, we must love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. We mustn’t fail in that duty. That duty doesn’t preclude defending the vulnerable, resisting wickedness, or championing what Christ has entrusted to the Church he founded.
Interesting perspective to "turn the other cheek". Victory is peace not vengeance.