I’m Not a Punching Bag
Daily Reading: (Luke 6:29a):
“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.”
As we go to Luke 6:17 we learn who Jesus is talking to when He tells the crowd to turn the other cheek. “He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon.” People who were from Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician. Culturally, the Phoenicians were Canaanites and spoke a variation of the Canaanite language and worshipped variations of the same gods as the Canaanite people in Israel. The most commonly worshipped god was the fertility god referred to as “Baal”. The Romans took the ruined city as a colony in 64 BCE, when Pompey annexed the whole of Phoenicia to the Roman Empire. Tyre was re-built under the Romans. This will be key to know as we continue in the text.
The motive of the people of the large crowd is recording in the next verse, verse eighteen: “who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases.”
Jesus makes this profound statement about turning the other cheek to the people of Judea, Jerusalem, and the Roman colony of Tyre and Sidon that has Phoenician heritage. Now if we skip down between verse twenty-six and twenty-seven there is a sub-header inserted that says, “Love for enemies.”This is where we are led to the answer as to why did Jesus say something that sounded so outlandish in Luke 6:29. To come to our answer let’s consider who were the enemies of the audience that were gathered together? Each other. Jews and Phoenicians/Canaanites or Romans take your pick. But here they are gathered together to hear Jesus and receive physical salvation. “Love your enemies” goes beyond ethnic divide here because what Jesus is talking about is that if you are a Jew and you follow Jesus, you won’t just receive this harsh treatment from the Romans you will also receive some of it from a fellow Jew.
“If someone slaps your cheek” does not refer to physical injury, but to insults and indignity. In Jewish culture, the greatest insult, the most demeaning action possible, was a slap on the cheek. It was a deliberate gesture of disrespect. This was the way Jewish synagogue leaders put people out of synagogue – especially Jews who had converted to Christianity. So the slap on the cheek refers to receiving a deep insult. Turning the other cheek means that when you are severely insulted, you don’t trade insults.
Jesus gave us this example in 1 Peter 2:23: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate.” That’s why Peter would say in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” Turn the other check simple means that when you are insulted, turn the other cheek or don’t repay evil with evil, insult with insult.