backslap back

Here’s another Our Daily Journey devotional that I offer for your constructive critique and/or use in your ministry.

When I lived in China, I had an American friend who was radically committed to bringing the gospel to that nation. He mastered the Chinese language until even the Chinese thought he spoke exactly like them, with no foreign accent, and he aggressively shared Jesus at every opportunity. He was sort of a Christian Rambo, except that he followed Jesus’ teaching of nonviolence. Once he was attacked by thugs, and rather than use his larger size to fight back, he obeyed Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek. His pummeling increased my admiration for him, though I also think he missed Jesus’ point.

        Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek is not a caution against self-defense. Jesus assumed there was a place for self-defense (Luke 12:11; 22:36), and Paul repeatedly defended himself before others (Acts 22:1; 24:10). Neither does Jesus mean that we must stand there and take a beating, for even He slipped away when crowds tried to kill Him (Luke 4:28-30; John 8:59; 10:39).

        The key to understanding Jesus’ point is the direction of the slap. In a right-handed world, a person who is slapped on the right cheek would be slapped by the back of the hand, which signifies insult and shame. The Roman world of Jesus’ day was consumed with honor. Emperors went to war over slights and snubs, both real and imagined.

        We still do. Someone snidely remarks, “Your work isn’t half bad, it’s mostly bad.” Backslap! We reply that we didn’t know they could tell the difference. Backslap Back! And just like that, our mutual disrespect escalates into a verbal war. How much trouble would we avoid if we followed Jesus’ command to let the air out of the argument by turning the other cheek?

Anyone who attempts anything will at times be disrespected. You will be backslapped. Don’t backslap back.

2 Comments

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  1. I remember studying this passage in Sunday School in 5th grade, just days before the one and only person ever to fight with me broke my nose. I never even raised a hand to my face in defense. I wish my Sunday School teacher had read your blog.

  2. Well, at least it healed well! I think God will still reward you for doing what you thought was right, even if technically you didn’t turn the other nose.

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