This instruction of the Lord is given to us in the book of Luke and the book of Matthew.  Let’s look first at Luke 6:29, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.”  Now let’s compare that to what we read in Matthew 5:39, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

To begin with, in Matthew 5:39, the Lord instructs His disciples that they should not resist evil.  It must be understood that this has nothing to do with civil government.  It is speaking of personal acts of evil that we may be confronted with.  To ‘resist not evil’ properly means that we should not seek revenge or retaliation against those who spitefully hurt us.  We read in Romans 12:17-19, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

The Lord, then, goes on to tell us that, “whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  Matthew shows us a little more detail about the words of the Lord than Luke did in this instance.  Luke speaks of someone that might smite, or hit, us.  Matthew adds that if someone should hit us on the ‘right cheek’, then we are to offer him our other, or left, cheek as well.  What is the significance of the right cheek?  Most people are right handed.  If you are facing someone and they strike you, which side of the face will they hit you on?  It would be on the ‘left cheek’.  To strike someone on the right cheek seems to indicate a ‘backhand’ slap, which is largely a sign of contempt and disrespect.  What the Lord is teaching here, I believe, is that if someone misuses us, if they disrespect us, if they treat us with scorn, we are not supposed to strike back at them and avenge ourselves.

The Apostle Peter writes of the Lord’s attitude in 1 Peter 2:23 which says of Him, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”  The Lord truly turned the other cheek.  He simply committed the abuse afflicted upon Him to His Father who, ‘judgeth righteously.’  Peter goes on to instruct us in 1 Peter 3:8-9, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.”

We have an example in scripture where the Lord Jesus did not ‘turn the other cheek’ when physically slapped, rather He challenged His accusers.  We read in John 18:22-23, “And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?”  We have a similar example of the Apostle Paul in Acts 23:2-3, “And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?”

When we limit the Lord’s words to turn the other cheek to just a physical incident, we are severely limiting the message the Lord has for us.  To live a Godly life, we need to learn this valuable lesson and “give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”  (180.5)