The following was partially inspired by my friend Tonia’s meditations on Christian nonviolence and analysis of Walter Wink’s book Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way. I highly recommend her series of posts on this subject, of which this is the most recent (and contains links to the others).
I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also… Matthew 5:39
This is what it means for me to try to live these words.
You hurt me, whether with your hand, with your actions, or with your words. Here’s what’s not happening: I’m not running away or cowering from you. Neither am I hurting you back. I am standing my ground and engaging with you in a way that makes me vulnerable to another strike. Understand, I’m not inviting another strike. I’m not giving my permission. I’m telling you I refuse to play that game. You hurting me won’t make me submit, nor will I let it suck me into using similar tactics. I am rooted and established in love, and it’s with love that I will respond to your attack.
This is so hard, maybe the hardest thing to learn to do. In the moment, instinct primes us for flight or a fight. Neither does society show us another way. Eye for eye and tooth for tooth is justice, plain and simple. You get what you deserve, neither more nor less. Done well, this kind of justice is undoubtedly an improvement over violence that escalates.
But love calls us to do more. Love says, When you hurt me, you’re hurting yourself too. I know this. Consider your debt paid. Just stop it. Let’s not be victim and aggressor anymore. Let’s see each other as we truly are: family.
Turning the other cheek takes guts, takes knowing who you are, takes knowing Whose you are.
It sounds like, “I know we’re always fighting and I’m sorry for my part in that. We need to make things better. What can I do?”
It sounds like, “I’m sorry I haven’t called. Even though we’ve had our differences, I want us to be close. We’ll always be family.”
It sounds like, “Do what you will, but I will wear you down by my capacity to love you.”
These things are not easy to say. I get them out, if at all, chokingly, through tears. But I need to live this way. The alternative is letting my fear control me, make me hide or lash out. I need to let these words work in me, change me, set me free.