Learning to Turn the Other Cheek
When the lockdowns of 2020 shut down almost every facility in town, including the YMCA, I resorted to walking on a track at the city park for exercise. On the days I had an early morning meeting, I would stop at the park on the way home before starting work.
Several times that fall, I noticed a group of lanky, tall women out for morning runs. I assumed they were on the local university’s basketball team.
On this particular morning, the track was a bit busier than usual. I thought little of it until one of the players headed in my direction.
Head held high and staring straight ahead, she appeared to have little concern that—without a course adjustment—we were destined for a collision.
In a split second, I decided to step off the track and into the grass. She chugged by without glancing at me. I found myself irritated at her unspoken attitude: “I’m here training and you need to get out of the way.”
However, just as the phrase “dumb jock” leapt to mind, another crowded it out: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
Turn the Other Cheek
Some may recognize those words as coming from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:39-40 NIV), a message that to this day shocks people. Who was this Jesus, advising people to yield their “rights” and go the extra mile with someone who had just ripped them off? To “turn the other cheek”?
The Son of God, that’s who. The One who came to earth to give His life so we could find forgiveness for the sin rooted in Adam’s fallen nature.
Sounds wonderful, until you consider that following this Christ requires us to deviate from the world’s typical, self-centered “I’m #1” outlook.
On a practical basis, on this day that meant yielding my place on the track without lashing out.
Crisis of Faith
The sad thing is, turning the other cheek appears to be fading out of favor among those who should know better. That’s why I found a recent Newsweek story about this reality so disturbing.
The news magazine was reporting about an NPR interview with Russell Moore, in which he said Christianity was in crisis because of the current state of right-wing politics.
A former leader in the Southern Baptist Convention and now editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, Moore told NPR “that (former President Donald) Trump had transformed the political landscape in the U.S. to the point where some Christian conservatives are openly denouncing a central doctrine of their religion…”
Moore said multiple pastors told him essentially the same story: when they quoted the Sermon on the Mount and talked of turning the other cheek, someone would come up afterward. They wanted to know where the pastor had gotten those “liberal talking points.”
“When the pastor would say, ‘I’m literally quoting Jesus Christ’ … The response would be, ‘Yes, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak,” he added. “When we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive … then we’re in a crisis.”
Indeed we are. When people who profess to follow a Savior place politics and culture ahead of Him, it tells me not enough are reading God’s Word. They need to; as Jesus said in John 8:31-32: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The truth is superior to politics.