You may have heard about a violent incident at this past year’s Oscar awards. Comedian Chris Rock, the host for the evening, made an insensitive joke about an actress in attendance, Jada Pinkett-Smith. Her husband, Will Smith, decided to walk up on stage and slap Rock across the face. When he walked back to his seat, he yelled a swear-laced threat at Chris twice.
Many were appalled and voiced their disapproval of Smith’s actions, and for good reason. The incident served as a reminder of how little emotional maturity there is in this world. But this sad spectacle also showed us an example of how to handle such an egregious situation.
Jesus instructed us, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Few people are able to do that today!
How would you react if someone slapped you across the face on live television? Chris Rock had the mic and could have gone on to verbally retaliate against Smith, but instead, he laughed it off and moved on. He gave a “soft answer” and regained control of the situation (Proverbs 15:1).
Many today don’t think that turning the other cheek is a very practical command, especially given the rise of violence in our world. If someone hits us today, many believe we ought to hit that person right back—and even harder. But that is an attitude of hatred that Satan wants us to have!
Contrary to popular belief, it actually takes more courage and self-control to turn the other cheek. Choosing not to retaliate in like fashion does not indicate weakness. After all, this command came straight from the mouth of the tough carpenter of Nazareth who wasn’t afraid to flip the tables of the moneychangers (Matthew 21:12-13). He would later practice what He preached at the end of His own life when He was crucified by the Roman soldiers and ridiculed by onlookers. Spat upon and beaten, Jesus Christ cried, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Let’s explore more of Christ’s instructions in the Matthew 5 Sermon on the Mount. “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (verse 41). Don’t just do the absolute minimum required of you; go the extra mile to help someone else. This is the attitude of service and sacrifice by which Jesus lived.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you …” (verses 43-44). Jesus Christ wants us to love even our enemies? Is this right? At times, it can be tough to love our closest friends and family! Some may even spend time and money plotting how to destroy their enemies! Winston Churchill said the history of man is the history of war; that’s because humans don’t know how to love the way Christ taught.
We know it is impossible to keep God’s law of love without the Holy Spirit, but even with that Spirit, this can be difficult to do depending on how others have sinned against us.
People today don’t believe in loving their enemies, and if you don’t believe in something, you will not do it. Even if you believe something God says is right, you still may not do it. It takes faith to step out and do what seems impractical or humanly impossible. But when God works things out, our faith is increased.
I have dealt with situations where I needed to love my “enemies.” Some of those relations have improved to the point where these people are now great friends of mine. It showed me, personally, that God will bless us if we follow this command.
Verse 44 ends, “… and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” God’s Church will definitely face more intense persecution. When persecuted and unjustly accused, it can be hard not to become indignant and try to retaliate. Christ is clear that we must endure people’s mistakes as well as any intentionally hateful acts. There will come a time when the offender may repent, and we must be quick to forgive them.
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (verse 45). All who ever lived are potentially God’s children, and He loves each and every one of them. We happen to be part of the firstfruits, but there will be many more to follow Christ’s and our example.
“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?’’ (verses 46-47). These publicans were tax collectors who most despised. There were also Gentiles at that time who were regarded as dirty, disgusting dogs. We have to have love for the whole world, not just those in God’s Church today. Anybody in the world can love their inner circle of friends and associates, but it takes the love of God to sacrifice for even those who hate you.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (verse 48). Gerald Flurry wrote about this verse: “This is a profound scripture. It really encapsulates the gospel of God! It is all about human beings actually becoming like God Himself! God is a perfectionist!” If perfection is our goal, we need to thoroughly study Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. It really shows us how to become more perfect like God.