turning the other cheek

I have been pondering what secrets the teaching “turn the other cheek” might hold, might have meant, might mean.

I have come to believe it may mean different things in different situations, to different people — carrying different energy or wounds or wishes — at a particular place on the journey.  (Yes, it’s true.  I may be a relativist.  Saving that realization for another post.)

A friend once told me that in the Roman society of the first century AD, men of equal standing would slap each others’ faces with an open hand (if such a slap were warranted), but that a slave would only be hit across the face with the back of one’s hand.  An open hand: intimate.  A backhand: impersonal.

So.  If a slave were slapped with a backhand, and if he were then to turn his head and present his other cheek, he would be opening himself to the Roman’s open hand.  He would thus be, in effect, refusing to be a second-class citizen and instead would be standing in front of the Roman as an equal.

How very interesting…

Perhaps there are times that we — and by we, I mean you, me, us, the other, our learning, love, each or all — are best served by literally turning the other cheek, open, hands down and relaxed, head up, receiving the violence and being willing to receive it again.

Ouch as I write that.  That one is so hard.  It raises specters of oppression and cowering victims, even casting a shadow of masochism.  There are wounds in me, in this world, that throb in agony against the idea of receiving such violence, and receiving it calmly again.  (And of course, I am not really talking about physical violence; I am talking of psychological violence, if that limited term would suffice for now.)

But perhaps there is a way to not create or feed that imbalance of power (oppressor / victim) but to instead deflate the power of the violence altogether, disintegrating the seesaw, poof! into the air.  Somehow.

Sounds kind of matrix, doesn’t it?

But consider: if I stand as your equal, do I not also recognize your stature?

Isn’t it true that if we could really see each other, really see each other, we would stand down?

Is it true?

I had a vision once, when I still believed in the idea of the christian heaven, that after we died there would be such clear sight for us to see each other, and we would look full in the eyes of those we now clearly knew we had misjudged, and we would weep.  I thought maybe that was what that scripture passage was telling us — you know, the one about God wiping all tears (meaning there would be tears) and then there would be no more death…

And so, I am seeking a way to stand as an equal to those whom I least want to credit with any stature.  I do not know how to find my way there.

Much of what I have read and seen in the last few days of Chick-fil-A insanity has grieved me, angered me, shocked me.  But it has also given me this insight.

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3 Responses to turning the other cheek

  1. I went back to Marcus J Borg, and read that the Greek in “Do not resist an evildoer” (Mt 5.38) as “Do not resist with violence an evildoer”. Still standing is resisting. Jesus’ hearers at the time would not be able to slap back without severe risk. They were the underdogs.

  2. Mindy says:

    Still, standing is resisting. Yes! Thank you, Clare!

  3. “Like” to Clare’s comment too 🙂

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