Turn The Other Cheek

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also”. (Matthew 5:38-39)

The law did establish this standard as a principle for limiting retribution to that which was just (Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). Its design was to ensure that the punishment in civil cases fit the crime. It was never meant to sanction acts of personal retaliation. So again Jesus made no alteration to the true meaning of the law. He was merely explaining and affirming the law’s true meaning.

John MacArthur Commentary

Jesus strongly resisted evil that was directed against others, especially His Father-as when He cleansed the Temple of those who defiled His Father’s house. But He did not resist by personal vengeance any evil directed at Himself. When the leaders of the Sanhedrin, and later the soldiers, physically abused Him and mocked Him, He did not retaliate either in words or in actions (Matt. 26:67–68). As Isaiah had predicted of Him, Christ gave His back to those who struck Him and His cheeks to those who plucked out His beard (Isa. 50:6). As Jesus hung from the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Peter sums up our Lord’s example: “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:20–23).

When someone attacks our right to dignity, we too are not to defend that right by retaliation. We are to leave the protection and defense of our dignity in God’s hands, knowing that one day we will live and reign with him in His kingdom in great glory.

An excerpt from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Matthew 5.