Other Cheek or Blind Eye?

Other Cheek or Blind Eye?

Jan 23, 2017

by Katrina Goodrich

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches a crowd using the Ten Commandments and other portions of Old Testament scripture. Specifically, in verses 38-42, He speaks of a portion of scripture repeated several times that is

familiar to us today: an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Jesus contradicts this saying, if someone “slaps you on the cheek you should also turn and offer him the other cheek to slap.” Turning the other cheek has become a popular phrase as well a way of life for many Christians through the ages.

Turning the other cheek has become synonymous with integrity and “taking the high road.” Refusing to return evil for evil is a sign of a decent person — but merely neglecting to take revenge is not what Jesus is talking about (even though that is the commonly accepted definition). Christians are to step beyond ignoring or refusing to take negative action on the wrongs perpetrated against us. Responding with kindness and compassion makes it a stark hallmark of Christianity. This truly does have transformative power. When we neglect this extra step, in my opinion, we contribute to a counterproductive mentality of ignorance in the church today.

When what we actively pursue is a way to ignore other people’s actions, our heads tend to stay in the clouds. We notice less of the world around us — except what immediately has to do with ourselves. We can turn our cheeks all the time, but if we never turn back, we can completely miss what’s going on around us. Repaying evil with kindness gives us an outward focus. If we miss that step our focus continually goes inward. The only thing that matters is our own reaction. It isn’t difficult to become wholly me-focused — culture is already all about individual wants and needs.

From there things become a slippery slope. If we can ignore the wrongs done to us by other people, it is much easier to ignore wrongs that aren’t directly perpetrated against us. The suffering of others is easier to miss than our own without our willful ignorance. We’re so involved with our introspection that we don’t notice anyone beyond our comfortable “Good Sabbath” zone. We decide to ignore questionable things going on around us because we don’t feel like we need to be involved or it isn’t our place. We turn away because we think we were turning a cheek. Actually, we are just turning a blind eye.

When we don’t know what to do or how to help people, I think we sometimes use turning the other cheek as an excuse not to get involved. Instead, we turn away because that’s what turning the other cheek means to us. Victims notice and feel further victimized because of it. I’ve recently been a part of conversations with several different people about how distrustful they were of the church because members of the church had turned a blind eye to verbal, mental, and/or physical abuse. The ignorance of the church signified to them that the church approved of their mistreatment when, generally, nothing could be further from the truth.

We have no excuse for ignoring overt mistreatment of others. In the past year racial slurs, bigotry, misogyny and maliciousness have become publicly commonplace. If you think they weren’t there before, you’re wrong. If you believe it’s not happening where you are, you’re wrong.

It’s time for the church to take its blinders off and be aware and ready to take action. If the way a person or group of people is treating another makes you uncomfortable, it isn’t something to ignore. It is something to change. Don’t confuse turning the other cheek with turning a blind eye to evil.

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