100 Answers in 100 Days

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Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Was Turning The Other Cheek An Insult?


I've been watching the new television series "The New Normal", about a homosexual couple who hire a surrogate in order to have a baby. In the most recent episode, "The Godparent Trap", one of the main characters goes to speak with a Catholic Priest. During their conversation, the Priest says the following... "(Turning the other cheek) didn't mean 'Lay down and take it'. In those days, turning the other cheek was an act of defiance! It meant 'I will see your insult and raise you a 'Suck It!'" Now, this show has plenty to say about homosexuality and the Church, (the Priest also says earlier that homosexuality is not a sin), but I feel like I've already written so much on homosexuality in the past that I'd just be repeating myself. But I did want to comment on a few things from this episode, and we'll start with this interpretation of what it means to "turn the other cheek."

It's a cunning approach here because we have someone who is portrayed as an authority on the Bible, but also they're professing some deeper knowledge of the historical and cultural context of the Bible, and saying "Look, you just don't understand the cultural difference." And so we believe what he says because few of us have an education in the historical and cultural setting to know any better. However, if we look at the passage in question, we don't even need an education in history and culture. It is fairly clear from the Textual context alone that to "turn the other cheek" is by no means to return an insult...

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-4) 

Jesus is clearly saying that we are not to pay-back evil for evil, or insult for insult. He had also said earlier, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the Earth." We can also see that other passages of Scripture would oppose the "insult for insult" interpretation quite explicitly. Consider the Epistle of Peter...

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21-23)

Jesus taught by His example, and His example was not to pay-back evil for evil, or insult for insult.

The program dialog continues...
Priest: "(Jesus) saw hypocrisy and injustice, and he said 'Seriously, you guys are idiots! This has got to change!'"
Bryan: "So you're saying the Church can change?"
Priest: "Well, it would. I've seen gay people battle discrimination and march for marriage equality. They demanded the right to fight for their countries, but for their souls...? Nope! They just give up and walk away. Jesus was a fighter, son. How about you?"

Now, I said earlier that I wasn't going to get side tracked into talking about homosexuality and the Church, so don't misunderstand me... the point I'm about to make is more general than that, but homosexuality in the Church will be our "working example." Despite the Priest's comment, homosexuality is a sin according the Bible. In this last extract of dialog which I transcribed, the Priest is arguing that the Church needs to change, and the character Bryan asks "So the Church can change?" as if to ask "Is that even possible?" And of course, Martin Luther was one who saw change in the Church as necessary, and also showed it to be possible. But what kind of change was Luther seeking? He wanted the Church to move from un-Biblical practices back to Biblical practices. The Church cannot be whatever it wants to be; it is Christ's Church and He, as the Head of the Church, has spoken as to what is and isn't acceptable within the Church. The Priest argues, however, that the gay community should fight for acceptance in the Church, which he calls a "fight for their souls." This implies that if the gay community can get the Church to accept them, they will gain their souls, (or salvation). But this couldn't be further from the truth. Again, we're only using homosexuality as a working example, but they key point is this... your salvation does not depend on whether the Church accepts you or not, but on whether your faith is in Jesus Christ. Salvation is as attainable for a gay man or woman as it is for anyone else, but all must attain it through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. It's not whether the Church accepts you, but whether you follow Jesus and His Word despite the teaching of the Church which may be in error. This is what Martin Luther and the Reformers realized; that they would rather be rejected by the Church and follow Christ because the Church, despite having the name "Christian Church", was in fact opposed to Christ. And this is also what Jesus did in His days on the Earth, as the Priest himself pointed out in the episode we're considering. He did see hypocrisy and injustice and demand a change, rebuking the religious leaders at the time, saying...

Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering. (Luke 11:52)

The lawyers were those who, like the Priest in this episode, were supposed to be experts in the Law (that is, the Law of Moses... the Scriptures.) But they led people astray from the Scriptures by "teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." This Priest, (or in reality, the writer of the episode), didn't even teach correctly something as clear as what it means to "turn the other cheek!" If we want to be a fighter like Jesus, our fight must be for adherence to the Scriptures...

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4)

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