Turning the other cheek has become a Christian cliché. These beautiful and penetrating words of Jesus are minimized when we humans try to apply them without God. The best we can do to achieve Jesus’ description in our power is repress our anger about the way someone sins against us. This only serves to make us look stupid to the world, creates ulcers, or causes an unplanned, embarrassing, public explosion of anger. Jesus spoke these words and many others like them to invoke the spiritual understanding that it is impossible to live out His directions for our lives without Him. He has no intention of our trying to take His work on in our flesh.
It happens all the time in marriages and other relationships where one person who thinks they need to be a certain way to please God centers his or her relationships around keeping peace. I don’t believe that kind of turning the other cheek is very pleasing to God.
No, God is inviting us to godlike actions when He speaks these words. Psalm 103:10 describes God this way; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. He does not say that he does not know our sins, feel the pain of our sins, or find our sins repulsive. He does say that He is the God who does not treat us as our sins deserve.
I love how this incredible truth is demonstrated in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. At the beginning of the novel Jean Valjean steals valuable silver from a saintly priest, the only human being who has offered an ounce of kindness to Valjean’s since his release from prison. When the police catch Valjean red-handed and bring him to the priest, the priest does not treat him as his sins deserve; rather the priest tells the guards that he gave Valjean the silver and offers him more. The priest tells Valjean that he has bought his soul for God and sends him back into the world to live out his life as a transformed man.
This is what Jesus was describing. There is no doubt between Valjean and the priest that Valjean is a sinner and that he committed an immoral crime against a holy man. However, the priest was so transformed by his relationship with God that he could not escape the incredible joy of being loved rather than treated as his sins deserved. He passed that spiritual experience on to Valjean.
Hugo’s story leaves the priest at this point and focuses on Valjean. His long, slow struggle for human transformation makes for a better novel. However, the deeper likeness to God his Maker as seen in the actions of the priest, is an even greater transformation story than Valjean’s in my opinion. Human souls are more deeply connected to God when they do not treat others as their sins deserve. The soul steps up to a higher level of spiritual experience. This is not the case of one who simply represses or denies negative feelings to turn the other cheek.
If you ever do not treat another person as their sins deserve through the power of the spirit of God (the only way to truly do so), you will discover a deeper oneness with God. It’s not an experience that you can base an interesting novel on, but it is an experience that your soul longs to know. You see, when you do not treat another person as their sins deserve, you are living out the image of God buried deep inside your fleshly cravings for revenge. For an instant your soul is infused with glory and wonder and a taste of how God originally created you.
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