Preaching on turn the other cheek

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by Pergamum, Aug 19, 2018.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I've had to address Jesus' words about turning the other cheek twice now in 3 years (once during a Q and A and today during my sermon)....I confess that I haven't felt comfortable either time and I am unhappy with my efforts.

    The Sermon on the Mount is difficult to understand and even harder to apply. I find myself spending half my time qualifying the words of Jesus, "He didn't really mean THAT..." or "Yes, you can defend yourself and the State can war justly when needed, etc" I often wonder if I believe Jesus on this point, really. We'd get eaten alive if we literally did what He commanded. It seems Jesus spoke in hyperbole much of the time...why didn't he just speak more plainly and save us the trouble?

    What are the best resources you've read that are not way-out-there pacifist on the Sermon on the Mount? I am sure Jesus meant to challenge us, but I find myself diminishing his words by 1,000 qualifications every time I teach from His words ("He doesn't mean you cannot take ANY oaths", "No, we all don't have to sell all our possessions and give to the poor." "No, we don't have to just stand there and get beat up." "No, I don't have to give everything I own to people just because they ask for it."). To speak the truth, I am sometimes bothered by how Jesus puts things.

    What are your best resources fro these hard sayings of Jesus? And how do I communicate to people the reason why Jesus' speaks in such a way so often?
  2. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior


    The genius of the law is otherness: we are to love God with all our being and others as ourselves. But since the Fall, apart from His grace and in keeping with our sinful nature, we've done the opposite: look after only that which enhances us, at the expense of God and others.

    The SOM is an exposé of this. The Pharisees and others imagined that they kept the law since they seemed (at least to themselves) to do so outwardly. Jesus came and demonstrated, however, how radical the demands of the law really are with respect to love of God and man. The SOM, rightly understood, shows us all how far short we fall of truly fulfilling God's law and that we Jesus to fulfill it for us, which, thankfully, He came to do (Matthew 5:17-20).

    Thus, Pharisees and others thought that they were not murderers or adulterers, but Jesus made clear that they were (Matthew 5:21-30). And if some think that they escaped those laws, the rest of the SOM shows that we are self-centered, not God- and other-centered the way that the law spiritually (and rightly) understood requires.

    These words are at times hyperbolic to arrest us in our awful self-centeredness and to arouse us from our customary self-love (think of Augustine's City of God in this respect). When it gets under your skin and you're feeling the challenge of it, then you're starting to get it!

    The words of our Lord in the SOM are the needed antidote to our complacency and self-satisfaction. They shock us and jar us and show us both what the law demands in love of God and others and how far short we fall of such, and thus, how much we need Jesus to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves (to live and die for us) and how much we need Him in the challenging process of sanctification.

    Those are just a few Sunday morning thoughts.

    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  3. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior


    Sorry, Trevor, I also meant to say that, given the plethora of lengthy and technical treatments of the SOM, I've always found Ferguson's comparatively short treatment (Kingdom Life in a Fallen World) to be excellent, as well as Dan Doriani's longer treatment.

    I just thought that I would cite these two contemporary treatments to complement the many fine older expositions at which you should look.

  4. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    First, I don’t think it’s wrong to "qualify" Jesus' words with consideration of the whole counsel of God (which are his words, too). There is nothing wrong with that. The same One who spoke the Law is the One standing here delivering the Sermon in the Mount. And, as he says, he has no intention of abolishing or setting aside even one jot or tittle of the Law.

    Second, as Calvin points out, there are two different types of reaction to evil done to us: justice and retaliation. Calvin says the subject here is retaliation. I think he is right. Neither self-protection nor punishment by or through the state is in view here. If someone steals your property, or kills your family, or maims you, you have every right, under the protection if biblical Law, to seek justice through civil punishment. That is, as Calvin says, "unquestionable." What you may not do, when someone "slaps you on the cheek"—which is undoubtedly more of a personal insult than a physical assault—is to insult them in return, because that would not be out of concern for justice, but personal retaliation or vigilantism. As far as I am aware, in the Law, retribution is a matter of the state, not of individuals.
  5. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Trying to recall a sermon that I heard some years ago (and which I couldn't locate last night), my recollection is that the pastor explained that the 'turn the other cheek' meant that when the offender came to apologize and seek reconciliation, you were to reconcile with him, and turn the other cheek for him to kiss. It didn't mean that he got to get a second shot at you.
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thank you all. I am getting the books recommended to read.

    I admit I wish Jesus had not used hyperbole. If a pastor hyperbolized all the time, I would probably find another pastor. But I guess Jesus wanted to snap his audience awake and shock them. I've seen pacifists so abuse this passage that I've come to dislike it, I admit. And, perhaps I just dislike it because getting even is an American virtue it seems (look at how many "hero" movies are men on killing sprees taking vengeance).

    Thanks. Keep the resources coming.
  7. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Martyn Lloyd-Jones "Studies in the Sermon of the Mount" is one of the most the helpful works I have seen on this area. This book is consistently rated highly by Reformed scholars. He is very helpful in exegesis, personal appliction, as well as the hyperbole verses literal issue.
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

  9. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior


    No major part of the church has historically read the SOM as teaching pacifism, though it has been a doctrine of the Radical Reformation (Anabaptists) and other fringe groups (Quakers). Note that I say historically because pacifism, of some sort, seems to have a popular appeal in recent times among churches that have never embraced it and have, in fact, taught "just war" theory. I understand your aversion to this curious and misguided attraction.

    But we are called to be peacemakers, which is quite another thing. That is the thrust of the "otherness" of the SOM, a call echoed in Paul (Romans 12: 18), in Hebrews (12:14) and elsewhere. I think, for example, that the call to "turn the other cheek" is commonly, and rightly, taken as part of taking an insult and not returning evil for evil (again, taught elsewhere in Scripture). That this does not speak to governmental use of soldiers or police nor prohibit self-defense is consonant with all wisdom teaching, which is customarily contextual and not binding on all persons in all situations. Recall Job's friends using much law without much wisdom, ham-handedly misapplying the law in his case.

    That this gets under your skin so much is not something that you should simply let go, but ask the Lord to search your heart and use this irritation to sanctify you in something that appears to be a struggle here for you. This is some practical, and quite challenging, instruction in peacemaking and rubs you the wrong way. Ultimately, you need to endeavor to learn from it, submit to it, and come to embrace fully these words that you now find aggravating.

  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, I am struggling with not only understanding it, but applying it as well. The words of Jesus are hard to understand, and impossible to do.
  11. TheInquirer

    TheInquirer Puritan Board Freshman

    I've had to study that passage a couple times and from my research, being slapped on the cheek was an insult, not a personal assault. Thus, Jesus is not advocating pacifism, but getting revenge by returning insult for insult.
  12. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Junior

    I second Lloyd Jones and Ferguson. William Perkins in volume 1 of his works has an exposition. Some other books I've used for studying the SOTM are:
    Opus Imperfectum - The anonymous and incomplete commentary in the IVP Ancient Christian Texts series.
    Spurgeon's commentary on Matthew
    J. C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on Matthew
    D. A. Carson's Commentary on Matthew
    Daniel Doriani's treatment of the SOTM
    Matthew Henry

    I would be happy to look up something in any of them. Although, I am leaving tomorrow morning and will be out of service until the end of the week.
  13. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I have a thought/question that I’ll struggle to
    articulate: how much are we to consider the Hebraic nature of Christ’s sermon here? I was reading Calvin on Matthew 5 and he says of 5:2, “Opening his mouth. This redundancy of expression ( πλεονασμὸς) partakes of the Hebrew idiom: for what would be faulty in other languages is frequent among the Hebrews, to say, He opened his mouth, instead of, He began to speak.” Does it remind of the giving of the Law; of Hebrews 2:1-2(?) There’s something quite formal and important about the setting and structure of Matthew 5-7, and 5 seems to stand out from 6 and 7. Is it Psalm-like in its structure? Robert Godfrey in speaking of the Psalms points out that “One important form of Hebrew poetry is that a poem often has the critical verse or message in the middle of the poem rather than at the end.” Matthew 5 seems to follow that pattern in the placement of verses 17-20 (“Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets...) right in the middle of the passage, with a definite end to this section of the sermon in the last verse, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

    I’m just thinking that there may be some help in considering this. Christ is definitely opening his mouth to give the Law of God, and he said everything he said quite purposefully. I don’t see much need to try to qualify, he is speaking to the hearts of men. Other places he speaks to clarify (to Peter he says that two swords will be enough, thus refuting pacifism. Maybe it’s good enough just to refer to that?)
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