The reading this week is one of the most quoted of all time. Turn the other cheek it says, implying that if someone strikes us, we should turn our cheeks and let them strike the other one and this always confused me. My brother and I would often get into fights and I sure as hell wasn’t going to turn the other cheek, I liked the older Hebrew saying “an eye for an eye”, if he hit me, I was going to try hit him harder. As human beings, we need to feel a sense of justice, we want to feel things are fair.
When I’m working as youth coordinator here, I see this all the time with the kids we work with. “He has the ball, he won’t share it”, “She got more food than me” “they got coke, I only got Fanta”, and sometimes I think, just take what you’re given! But then I remember myself saying those same things to my Dad when it looked like my brother got more ice cream.
From a little kids perspective, when someone gets a little more ice-cream, instantly they know it’s not fair, it’s ingrained that things have to be fair. Kids see a very surface level of what’s fair and what’s not fair.
In the youths Vinnies program, there was a little boy whose father had left him and his mother was in a really poor financial situation, so much so, that all he got for his birthday was a single $2 sundae from Maccas. Now I heard about this while we were on our Vinnies camp, so I decided to give the boy my plate of desert because I knew how much he appreciated it. Now when I did that, the girl beside him launched into a rage “Why didn’t you give it to me” she screamed! “That’s not fair”.
I guess it wasn’t fair, but as we go through life, I think we all come to a realisation that life isn’t fair. Sometimes we are dealt a poor hand, whereas others get the full house. So when I hear Jesus say “Turn the other cheek,” I think he is trying to tell us this.
When someone is trying to cut me off on the road, I could refuse to let them in, slam my horn and hurl abuse at them. Or I could turn the other cheek, perhaps they are really late for work and need the money, whereas I’m just too proud to let them in.
When Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek, I don’t think he is saying we should let ourselves be beaten up by our brothers and enemies. I think Jesus is calling us to be more understanding, to be kinder people, with compassionate hearts who do our best to understand and help not just our friends, but ALL people around us!