Turn the Other Cheek

August 8, 2014 | 55 comments

As a father of eight (two in heaven, and six on earth), I have the perfect excuse to watch children’s movies. “I just happened to be nearby and just happened to see…”

Actually, some of the kids’ movies we have are really good. And among my favorites are the Veggie Tales series of movies and television shows. The characters are all vegetables of differing sorts, e.g., celery, broccoli, etc., and the themes are always Christian with a moral to challenge young people to walk with the Lord in their everyday lives. There is no doubt that the writers of the series knew parents would be watching because there is no lack of humor mixed in that is obviously aimed at an older audience, but overall these episodes are extremely well done and my kids absolutely love them.

Having said that, however, the theology in some of these DVD’s is found wanting. In one episode, for example, titled “Minnesota Cuke,” Jr. Asparagus and his friends are bullied by a bigger kid (a giant squash, no less) on the playground. He demands them all to leave “or else,” and tells them they can never come back without his permission first.

When Jr. asks his father for advice, his father tells him we must “turn the other cheek,” meaning, we just have to “get pounded” sometimes and take it because that is what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Thus, Jr. and his friends “stand up to the bully” by informing him that he will have to beat all of them up because none of them will fight back, but none of them will oblige him in his demands either.

The good news is, of course, that the bully can’t bring himself to beat all of them up so he backs down with his demands and all is well that ends well.

After watching this, I thought, “What a horrible lesson to teach children!” Does Jesus really mean that we have to be doormats as Christians and let anyone who so wills to “pound us” at will? Even kill us?

The Catholic and Biblical Response to Sr. Asparagus

In an earlier blog post, I pointed out another verse, Matt. 7:1, that is similarly misused from this same Sermon on the Mount: “Judge not lest you be judged.” I argued this may well be the most misunderstood verse in all of Sacred Scripture. Well, the “turn the other cheek” passage from Matthew 5:39 is unfortunately not far behind and misunderstood today by large numbers of both Christians and non-Christians alike.

The truth is: Jesus was using a common rabbinical teaching tool known as “hyperbole” in order to accentuate an important point. He did not intend that line to be taken in a strict, literal, and absolute sense. In fact, Jesus uses hyperbole throughout the Sermon on the Mount. For some reason, the “judge not” and “turn the other cheek” passages get an inordinate amount of air-time. But here are some other examples that are not as well known:

1. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away… (5:29)

Do we really think Jesus wants us to pluck out our eyes and throw them away? No! He is speaking hyperbole to emphasize the fact that we must eliminate all obstacles to serving God.

2. … if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away… (5:30)

Is anyone out on the stump encouraging folks to cut off hands in the name of Jesus?

3. But I say to you, Do not swear at all… Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”… (5:34-37)

Jesus himself honored the oath the High Priest placed him under in Matt. 26:63: “I adjure thee by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (in Leviticus 5:1, we have a reference to the “oath of adjuration” where the High Priest is revealed to have the authority to place someone under an oath to testify). If Jesus taught oaths to be unlawful or immoral, he would not have responded or he would have protested and made clear that he did not agree with the concept of oaths.

St. Paul swore oaths, or at least did not present everything as a simple “yes” or “no” as Jesus said in Matt. 5:37, in multiple places in the New Testament (see Phil. 1:8; II Cor. 1:23; 11:31; 12:19; Gal. 1:20). Jesus’ actual meaning was that oaths should not be necessary among the faithful because we should be known for our honesty; however, because of the evil that exists in the world oaths are very necessary. But you don’t get this from the actual words of Matt. 5.

4. … if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well… (5:40)
5. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you (5:42).

Do we really believe Jesus meant we have to loan or give money to anyone and everyone who asks us? All Christians would be broke and unable to raise families! No! He uses hyperbole in teaching Christians should be known for their generosity.

6. … when you give alms do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret… (6:3-4)

Did Jesus really mean no one should ever know what we give? Then why would Jesus have commended the poor widow who gave the now famous “widow’s mite” in Mark 12:42-43? Or, why would the apostles have had a very public display of giving in Acts 5 when Ananias and Saphira were condemned for lying about how much they actually gave? This implies that everyone knew what each was giving!

The truth is, Christ was emphasizing that we should give for love of God and neighbor's sake, not to be seen of men as a matter of pride.

7. … when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret… (6:6)

Did Jesus really condemn praying in public here? If so, he would have been condemning himself! He prayed publicly in the Garden of Gethsemane (See Mark 14:36); he prayed publicly when he raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11:41-43. The apostles often prayed in public (see Acts 1:24; 4:31; 6:6; 20:36, etc.).

Jesus was here using hyperbole to emphasize that prayer should never be a performance to be seen by men.

8. Do not lay up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven… (6:19-20)

Do we really believe that Jesus condemned banks and bank accounts here? This would hardly square with Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents,” in Matt. 25:27: “Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.”

9. … do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink… Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they (6:25-26)?
10. And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these… will [God] not much more clothe you, O you of little faith (6:28-30)?

If we are going to argue that “turn the other cheek” (or “judge not”) must be taken in a strict, literal, and absolute sense, then it would seem we would also have to say Jesus is condemning farms, farming, or even planting seeds to grow food in these verses. After all, the birds don’t do that and God takes care of them!

Jesus would also be condemning the making of clothing. I suppose we should all remain naked and wait for God to clothe us, right?

Now, this last may seem really ridiculous. We all know God is condemning forgetting about our Lord and his providence in all of these affairs. But if we are going to take some of the Sermon on the Mount in a strict, literal sense, why not all of it?

Conclusion

The entire Sermon on the Mount can be summed up in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” The idea here is God must come first in every aspect of our lives.

So when it comes to turn the other cheek, Jesus is not saying we should be doormats and pacifists. In fact, Jesus himself makes this clear in Luke 22:36-38 when he tells the apostles to “take up a sword” for self-defense. And while it is true that Jesus tells St. Peter to put away his sword later in verses 50-51, this was only after Peter lashed out offensively and against Jesus’ will. Jesus had already told the apostles that it was God’s will that he suffer and die (see Luke 9:44; 18:32, etc.). Peter was acting contrary to Jesus’ revealed will. But this does not negate the fact that it was Jesus himself that told Peter and the apostles to take up a sword to begin with. This implies the liceity of legitimate self-defense.

Jesus also praises the faith of the Roman centurion in Matt. 8:8ff. Never does he say that serving in the military is wrong, which it would be if he was teaching pacifism. The truth is: Jesus was using hyperbole once again in order to tell us that we are to be peace-makers. We should always seek peace even though sometimes self-defense or even war becomes necessary (cf. Eccl. 3:3, 8).

 


Tim Staples is Director of Apologetics and Evangelization here at Catholic Answers, but he was not always Catholic. Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. Although he fell away from the faith of his childhood, Tim came back to faith in Christ during his late teen years through the witness of Christian...

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Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  Ric Vesely - Longmont, Colorado

Good article. I've heard that "turning the other cheek" was actually a form of defiance. Striking of the cheek was done with the right hand with the blow delivered to the victim's right cheek. By turning the left cheek toward the assailant, you were not asking for another blow but making it very difficult for another blow to be delivered. What do you think of this interpretation?

August 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm PST
#2  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Hey Ric,
I don't agree with that interpretation. I go with hyperbole to be the answer as I said in my post.

August 8, 2014 at 1:38 pm PST
#3  Shaune Kowal - Lacombe, Alberta

Hello Tim,

After I read your blog I have come to believe that you don't so much have answers as much as you have excuses that allow people to act in a way that is not Christian. I'm sorry if you are offended but it really seems that you just twist the verses to mean whatever you need them to mean so that you can justify your actions. God Bless.

August 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm PST
#4  Alejandro Egusquiza - carrollton, Texas

Mr. Tim
I have also heard from a deacon in my parish teaching about this and
Saying the same thing that it is a form of defiance as the last comment
But I completely disagree with that as I disagree with war it self
As war in this country doesn't support God's teachings, but
Government's conveniences I don't belong to any country not because
I'm born in it, nor I go against it. I will defend the art of peace
Until the last of my human capabilities are able to stand
Then I will reoccur to God again for helpbefore I decide to strike back.

August 8, 2014 at 2:14 pm PST
#5  James Champagne - Mobile, Alabama

Thank you for clearing this up!

One of the more insidious misuses of the "turn the other cheek" maxim is when people try to apply it to public policy or national defense, in which case it becomes "turn the other [person's] cheek". The idea that, if a person comes to kill you, you should offer them your family, too, is absurd. Still, you will still see people float that idea out there and claim it as Christian teaching.

August 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm PST
#6  Adam Biernat - Windsor, Windsor and Maidenhead

Hello Tim,

I have to say that you're probably my favourite Catholic Answers apologist (not that your colleagues aren't all excellent writers/theologians too - they are!) Your concise articles on doctrine (particularly Purgatory and Marian dogmas) and your superb radio shows with Patrick Coffin on pro-life issues have given me the knowledge and confidence to defend the faith, which is especially important in my rather secular homeland of England.

However, while I agree with everything you've written in this blog, I sense a subtle contradiction in something you DIDN'T write. You start your analysis of the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew 5:29, while (perhaps unintentionally) skipping over the previous verse. You write that:
"Jesus uses hyperbole throughout the Sermon on the Mount"
and
"...if we are going to take some of the Sermon on the Mount in a strict, literal sense, why not all of it?"
How exactly is one to apply this reasoning to Matthew 5:28? ("Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart".) Is this verse as hyperbolic as the rest of the chapter, or must it be taken in "a strict literal sense"? And if so, why must this verse alone be taken absolutely literally, unlike the others? Did Jesus REALLY mean that if an as-yet-unmarried man imagines marital sex with a future wife whom he loves, he will burn in hell for eternity? (This is the church's current teaching.) Or was Jesus not rather using hyperbole so as to teach his disciples the need to avoid sexual objectification of women, coveting of other men's wives, etc...?

While I know what your answer is likely to be, I would still be interested to read it. Please please don't take any of my comment as a criticism! Like I said, you and your fellow apologists have made a real difference in my quest for the truth, and you all have my eternal gratitude.

God bless.

August 8, 2014 at 5:24 pm PST
#7  Bryan Metcalf - Napa, California

Tim,

You raise a lot of valid points about Jesus' use of hyperbole, but as it pertains to this particular passage of the Sermon I side with those who hold it to be an act of defiance.

The reason I believe this is because I was taught in my scripture courses in high school and college (both Catholic institutions) that if you were to turn the other cheek it was more akin to daring the person to slap you again. The first strike would generally have been a backhand, which symbolically said "I am above you." To strike the other cheek, you would use the open palm, which symbolically said "you are my equal." So using the cultural norms of the time period, if the other person does strike you on the other cheek he has insulted himself in the process.

This same logic applies also to "going the second mile" and "give him your cloak as well." If a person took everything you had, including the clothes on your back (your cloak), and left you naked in the street, the shame was not yours but theirs.

Roman soldiers were allowed to press citizens into service for one mile per day. They could not punish you for doing more, and could actually be punished for allowing or forcing you to do more.

A great modern day example I always point to about "turn the other cheek" is the Montgomery Bus Boycott of the Civil Rights movement. Organizers knew that refusing to ride the buses would cause more harm to the bus company than any other action, but at the same time did nothing to directly violate the human dignity of any individual. They simply said, "If you don't want us to sit on your buses, we'll be happy to walk to our destination instead."

August 8, 2014 at 6:41 pm PST
#8  Wesley Bean - Kent, Ohio

Tim,

Your exegesis seems sounds, but I would love some more information on how the early church fathers viewed this. On the surface it seems as though the church fathers took a much more pacifistic approach becoming martyrs instead of fighting back against their persecutors.

Thanks,
Wesley B

August 8, 2014 at 7:25 pm PST
#9  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Shaune,

In response to your #3:
No worries. No offense taken. But your response has no meat. Where did I go wrong in my argumentation?

August 8, 2014 at 8:08 pm PST
#10  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Alejandro,

In response to your #4:
You have to first consider that Jesus himself did not "turn the other cheek" when he was struck in the face in John 18:23. He responded and demanded justice saying, "If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" That is not turning the other cheek.
Are you saying you would simply let someone come into your house, beat you and kill you without defending yourself? What about your wife and children?
Governments have the responsibility to protect their citizenry just as fathers have the same responsibility to protect their households. Romans 13:4 says as much when it comes to governments.

August 8, 2014 at 8:22 pm PST
#11  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Adam,
A very thoughtful response. I appreciate that.
But in my defense, when I said "throughout," I did not mean "in every instance." I meant that he peppers it throughout. One has to apply proper exegesis to discern when our Lord is speaking hyperbolic and when he is not.
Lusting in the heart in Matt. 5:28 would not appear to be hyperbolic because we see the truth of this statement in principle throughout the Scriptures from Old Testament (the Ninth Commandment), to the New (James 1:15). There is nothing contextually to make us believe it to be hyperbolic.
However, I gave contextual reasons why these other statements of our Lord was hyperbolic.

August 8, 2014 at 8:29 pm PST
#12  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Bryan,
I appreciate your comment, but if what you are saying is true, then Jesus would be a hypocrite because he did not, in fact, "turn the other cheek" in John 18:23. He would never command something that he would not himself practice.
Being surrounded by examples of hyperbole it seems more in keeping with the context to hold to my position.

August 8, 2014 at 8:33 pm PST
#13  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Adam,
Oops! I meant to say, "I gave contextual reasons why these other statements of our Lord WERE hyperbolic." I hate it when I do that!

August 8, 2014 at 8:36 pm PST
#14  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Wesley,
In response to your #8, I can offer you the greatest of the Doctors of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Commentary on John, Lecture 4, where he comments on John 18:23, the verse I cited above in one of my comments where Jesus does not "turn the other cheek" in John 18:23:

"Sacred Scripture should be understood according to the way Christ and other holy persons followed it. Now, Christ did not turn his other cheek here [in John 18:23]; and Paul did not do so either. Accordingly, we should not think that Christ has commanded us to actually turn our physical cheek to one who has struck the other. We should understand it to mean that we should be ready to do this if it turned out to be necessary to do so. That is, our attitude should be such that we would not be inwardly stirred up against the one striking us, but be ready or disposed to endure the same or even more. This is how our Lord observed it, for he offered his body to be killed. So, our Lord's defense is useful for our instruction.” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Lecture 4)
Sometimes the passive approach is necessary. Sometimes it is not only not necessary, but it would be irresponsible.

August 8, 2014 at 8:44 pm PST
#15  Lee Harris - Milwaukie, Oregon

Hi Tim, thanks for the article. Your reasoning on these verses seems sound. On much of what Jesus taught in the sermon, it seems to be our intentions that He's concerned with (don't give or pray to be seen by others, don't be anxious or fail to trust God to provide, etc.) I don't think we should give an overly-literal interpretation of what He taught. However, I have a few questions:

1. Can't it be meritorious for someone to try to follow some of these teachings literally? It seems we see that in the lives of some of the saints (non-violent pacifism, eschewing material possessions, etc.).

2. Concerning number 8 - In view of the fact that we are in a very wealthy and materialistic society, could you elaborate a bit more on how we best obey Jesus' admonition to "store up our treasure in heaven" and not on earth?

Thanks, and God bless. I look forward to seeing you and the other apologists next month at the San Diego conference.

August 9, 2014 at 12:22 am PST
#16  Ged Narvaez - Daraga, Albay

Turn the Other Cheek follows/echoes -Hey!see the Truth and be charitable, man...

August 9, 2014 at 4:07 am PST
#17  D W - A, New York

I'd have to agree with #7. Why else would the _right_ cheek be mentioned specifically? And the other two examples given (one mile, two miles; clothing) only support that position.

August 9, 2014 at 7:01 am PST
#18  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

"Turn the other cheek" is a commentary on a biblical law of compensation payable if a pregnant woman was delivered of a dead child having been injured by two men brawling. The moral is, don't get into a brawl in the first place.

We must also remember that Jesus upheld and observed every single precept in the Law. Some of them are about war, so He is no pacifist by any means. In the Law of Moses there are two kinds of war which the King may wage: "milkhemet reshut" and "milkhemet mitzvah".

Milkhemet reshut (war of choice) could be waged for the expansion of the boundaries of Israel only if the King presented a motion for it before the Sanhedrin. The motion had to pass and be confirmed by the High Priest using the Urim and Thummim. Since these devices went missing by the time the First Temple was destroyed, and because the Sanhedrin no longer exists, this war is not an option.

Milkhemet mitzvah (war by divine commandment) comes in two versions. The first is a war for the defence of Israel when it has political and military sovereignty. So the mandate Jesus has to defend Israel concurs exactly with the moral obligation incumbent on the Government of the State of Israel, and on every government in relation to its own country.

The second version - the theoretical model for the crusading tradition - is sometimes referred to as "milkhemet amalek" and it is immeasurably the most terrible war God could command men to wage. It is a holy war, a war not of this world, which only the anointed King of Israel could oversee and which is driven by the Holy Spirit Himself. It is waged against Amalek, the the ancient enemy identified with anyone who seeks the destruction of the Jews or the Christians so that the name of Israel is blotted out (Psalms 83).

The mitzvah (commandment) for holy war against Amalek is engaged today as Christians throughout the Islamic world are put to genocide. Hence Jesus Christ Himself, the Lord of Hosts who has authority over death and Hades, commands all the nations to execute the herem of destruction according to Exodus 17, Deuteronomy 25, 1 Samuel 15 and 1 Corinthians 3:17.

Let all creation worship Him.

August 9, 2014 at 10:06 am PST
#19  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Lee,

In response to your #15:
1. The Church considers it legitimate that particular individuals may well conclude they are called to live a life of pacifism, but this must not be misconstrued to believe that the Church is pacifist. CCC 2311 says, "Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms; these are nonetheless obliged to serve the human community in some other way."
Those who take a more literalistic approach to turning the other cheek should be humble enough to note this is merely a private opinion that binds no one else. It can become dangerous to the common good (and doctrinally errant) if it contradicts CCC 2265, which says, "Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility."
2. When Jesus says we should "store up treasure in heaven," he is warning against the insanity of trusting in wealth for one's security and happiness. As the old saying goes, "You can't take it with you." And those who trust in wealth will always be disappointed.

August 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm PST
#20  Pedro Erik Arruda Carneiro - Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Dear Tim,

Jesus and St.Paul did NOT turn the other cheek in some occasions. See John 18:22-23 or John 10:31-32 and Acts 23:3.

God bless you.
ICXC NIKA.

Pedro Erik

August 9, 2014 at 1:27 pm PST
#21  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Daniel,
In response to your #17 and more in response to Bryan's #7:
The late Scripture scholar and pacifist Walter Wink was the creator of the idea that "turn the other cheek" and "go with him the second mile" were clever ways of Christ advocating we "demand equality" with the one striking us, and bring shame on the one who takes our both our cloak and tunic (leaving us naked).
I know this has become very popular today, but I think it is false for several reasons. 1. It was never taught by the Fathers or Doctors of the Church.

For example: St. Augustine in his work, "On Lying," 15, says:

The things which are done by the Saints in the New Testament profit for examples of understanding those Scriptures which are modeled into the form of precepts. Thus we read in Luke; Whoso smiteth thee on the one cheek, turn to him the other also. (Luke 6:29.) Now there is no example of patience more perfect than that of the Lord; yet He, when He was smitten, said not, ‘Behold the other cheek,’ but, If I have spoken amiss, accuse me wherein it is amiss; but if well, why smitest thou me? (John 18:23.) hereby shewing us that that turning of the other cheek should be in the heart.
2. It is bringing something into the text that is simply not there. The Sermon on the Mount represents the New Moses giving us a new law that challenges us to go beyond the Old and to live the spirit of the Gospel. Jesus is not about clever tricks; he is about loving people even when it hurts, not counting the cost. "Give to him who begs... Love your enemies" is not about tricking the poor and your enemies into a corner, Jesus says we do these things "so that [we] may be sons of [our] Father" (Matt. 5:45).

August 9, 2014 at 2:10 pm PST
#22  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Michael,
In response to your #18:
When you said, "'Turn the other cheek' is a commentary on a biblical law of compensation payable if a pregnant woman was delivered of a dead child having been injured by two men brawling. The moral is, don't get into a brawl in the first place," I don't see how you could get further from what Jesus actually said. What you said here has nothing to do with what Jesus said.
Moreover, you seem to be operating from a perspective that says Jesus is merely a man who lived the Old Law perfectly (and he certainly did that) and extended it into the world, but that is to miss the entirety of what Christ was doing in the Sermon on the Mount. When he says over and over, "You have heard it said... But I say unto you," he reveals 1. He is establishing the "New Covenant" prophesied in Jer. 31:31-34 that almighty God said he would establish. 2. He is God (as well as man), because only God has the authority that he claims for himself here.
Once you get this fact, Michael, you will no longer be advocating genocide because you will know that Jesus calls us to love our enemies, not to exterminate them.

August 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm PST
#23  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Pedro,
In response to your #20:
Excellent examples of Jesus Christ not "turning the other cheek" in John 18:22-23, and in John 10:31-32. I personally don't use St. Paul from Acts 23 because folks will respond by saying, "Well, St. Paul was a sinner and he was wrong in his response." Just like Paul had to rebuke St. Peter in Gal. 2:9, St. Paul should be rebuked here.
I don't agree with that assessment, but I am just saying the examples of Jesus Christ are the way to go. There is no answer to those.

August 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm PST
#24  AJ Boggs - Buena Vista, Virginia

Tim,

Overall I agree with your article, and I would say that the Catholic Church historically seems to agree as well. However, would you agree that a literal interpretation for turning the other cheek is also acceptable? An example that comes to my mind is when St. Philip Benizi was struck by Peregrine, he turned his other cheek and this action filled Peregrine with grief, who in turn came back to Philip, begged his forgiveness, and became St. Peregrine. There are numerous reports that St. Francis of Assisi took the Sermon on the Mount literally, and encouraged his brothers to do so. I'm sure you know the famous story where a thief steals one of St. Francis' brother's hood, and Francis tells him to chase him down and offer him his robe (this particular is not, obviously, an absolute historical fact, but in general he and his followers were said to have acted in this way). In their radical living, many souls were converted. In these examples, a literal interpretation seems to have worked exceptionally well. Would you say there are perhaps certain situations where literally turning the other cheek is necessary? In general, I agree with the premise of this article; there are cases, such as protecting one's family, where turning the other cheek is not a logical option. But I do feel that a literal interpetation can sometimes be applicable and even holy, such as the cases of those saints. What do you think?

August 9, 2014 at 5:26 pm PST
#25  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

A.J.,
I agree. As long as one does not make dogma out of it. It can be a powerful witness as were the cases you cited. The danger comes in when a person attempts to bind everyone to something that was not intended to be so by our Lord as is evidenced by our Lord himself not "turning the other cheek" on two occasions in Scripture (John 10:31-32, 18:22-23).
In other words, one does not sin by not taking that text literally and acting accordingly.

August 9, 2014 at 9:28 pm PST
#26  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

Tim,
In response to your #22:
If you read the Gospel carefully, you will see that He calls up an article of the Law of Moses and either changes it or reinterprets it. His commentary applies in terms only to the case covered by the rule, but it can also be binding or persuasive for other cases. Jesus never commented on the law concerning Amalek. To do so would be to rehabilitate him by uttering his name so that its memory is no longer to be blotted out. The law concerning Amalek was observed by Jews then, and still is today, as they keep the feast of Purim (which goes back at least to Hasmonean times). I recently corresponded with an orthodox Rabbi who defined Amalek as anyone committed to the annihilation of the Jewish people - thus Israel has the death penalty for genocide. Extending its application to the protection of Christians, a practical use of this law today is that any civil authority which has the good fortune to defeat the Islamic Caliphate is forbidden to spare the enemy but must put him to death - the Caliph and all who give him the bay'at of allegiance. Jesus Christ is the God who, 1300 years before He was born, swore an oath to wage war against Amalek from generation to generation and to blot out remembrance of him under heaven (Exodus 17). The reason for the law is this. God used divine power to preserve the body of Jesus from the corruption of the grave. But soldiers were needed to guard the tomb from men, for the body of Christ on earth is naturally vulnerable to complete destruction at human hands. That is why the destruction of Amalek must be undertaken promptly and cannot wait until the Day of Judgement.

August 10, 2014 at 12:02 am PST
#27  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

Tim,
In further response to your #22:
The New Covenant is a treaty between God and Israel, in which God promises Mary that she will conceive and bear a son who will possess the throne of his father David and reign for ever. The Law and the Gospel were in force together during the public ministry of Jesus. The point at which the Old Covenant (of Moses) is superseded is at Matthew 23:1-3. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, therefore the Jews must do and observe whatever they tell them. The King's decree replaces the contractual agreement done at Sinai. From now on, the Law is now the Law of Christ, and for unbaptised Jews it is whatever their judges and scholars say it is. Same rules, different Constitution. Apart from that, only the arrangements for Temple worship are changed. The Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini speaks of continuity between the OT and the NT - discontinuity is only institutional.

August 10, 2014 at 12:12 am PST
#28  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

Tim,
In further response to your #22:
CCC 668: "Christ's Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in His humanity, in God's power and authority." Jesus shares as Man in the fullness of the Divine Majesty. In order to do this, His Sacred Humanity must share in the giving and taking of human life. The consummation of a Christian marriage is His human act for the transmission of life. As Lord of Hosts, Jesus by a human act orders the nations to wage war against Amalek and put Him to death. In the giving and the taking of human life, there must be a law for Him to follow, otherwise He would not be a just King but a lawless tyrant.

August 10, 2014 at 12:28 am PST
#29  Pedro Erik Arruda Carneiro - Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Dear Tim,

Thanks for your answer. I am using that examples of Christ not turning the other cheek in a paper on Just War Theory.
I am sitll working on it. But, I made a presentation last May in Cardiff (Wales).

I understand you position regarding st.Paul, but it is not so difficult to respond. He followed Christ.

If you want to know more about the paper write to me. Your article helped me a lot, you gave another examples of hyperboles.

God bless you,
Pedro Erik

August 10, 2014 at 8:36 am PST
#30  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

Pedro #29, turning the other cheek has nothing to do with just war theory. In the Gospels Jesus begins by confirming the whole of the Law of Moses as binding on the Jews. The teachings that He gives concerning the Law are but a sample of an entire corpus of law and jurisprudence that you can spend your whole life studying. He expressly told His people to do and observe the Law as given to them by their teachers and scholars, and so the orthodox Jews do and observe to this day.

The Jewish sages have developed the Jewish teaching concerning war in "Hilchot Melachim u''Milchamoteim" - The Laws of Kings and their Wars. This text includes 23 mitzvot; ten positive commandments and thirteen negative commandments."
You can find them here:
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188343/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot.htm

The commandment to decimate the descendants of Amalek has nothing to do with physical descendants, but pertains to those who are like Amalek in their criminality.

There is an enigmatic passage in the Passion narrative where Jesus orders His disciples to sell their cloak and buy a sword. It makes sense it terms of the particular mandate of the King in Jewish tradition to wage war for the destruction of Amalek. It is meant to show us that Jesus is like other kings in being attended by men who carry swords. Not that they should be used, but that they are ceremonial devices to remind us that the King does not bear the sword in vain, but executes God's punishment upon evildoers according to law.

Jesus was not crucified alone. Two criminals were crucified either side of Him. One of them was like Amalek in that he had no fear of God, even when dying in the presence of his Divine Judge.

The law for the destruction of Amalek must be observed by the Jews generally, but it can be executed only on the initiative of the King, who alone takes responsibility for any transgression. Hence Jesus does not impose the commandment on Christians generally. He imposes it on civil rulers, because He is the Lord of Hosts with all power in heaven and on earth. Human life is His to take, and the nations are His to command.

August 10, 2014 at 9:25 am PST
#31  Pedro Erik Arruda Carneiro - Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Well, Michael #30, thanks you comment. But, I am quite sure I understood.

Regarging my point, all saints and scholars (Saint Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Francisco de Vitoria etc) who developed Just War Theory discussed the turn the other cheek passage.

Best regards,
Pedro Erik

August 10, 2014 at 10:32 am PST
#32  Pedro Erik Arruda Carneiro - Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

I mean, I am NOT quite sure I unnderstood. Sorry.

August 10, 2014 at 10:33 am PST
#33  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

Well, Pedro Erik, if Ss Augustine, Thomas etc. thought fit to discuss the turn the other cheek passage I won't quarrel with them. They were discussing just wars fought under conditions in which Jesus doesn't have a dog in the fight.

The situation we're in today is one in which God's genocidal enemy Amalek is at large, so that the mitzvah of holy war is engaged. The crusading tradition of the Church rests upon this proposition, and there's a good deal of biblical precedent for it.

August 10, 2014 at 10:44 am PST
#34  Pedro Erik Arruda Carneiro - Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Yeah, Michael, "Amalek" or the evil is at large.

But I think that Jesus always have a dog in the fight. The saints knew that. As Chesterton said "every discussion is a theological discussion". So it is every war.

I think you are trying to expose biblical precedent, ok, I do not have a beef with it. No problem.

August 10, 2014 at 11:28 am PST
#35  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Pedro,

In response to your #29: You missed my point. People will respond that St. Paul was a sinner like you and I. He could have been wrong in his actions just like St. Peter did not live up to his own teachings concerning the Gentiles and had to be rebuked by St. Paul in Gal. 2:9. But if you establish as your precedent the two cases of Jesus not "turning the other cheek," then you are on solid ground to use St. Paul as "following Jesus" as you said.

August 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm PST
#36  Jesus Gaytan - Los Angeles, California

Tim,

Hi; I had a chance to participate in your discussions at UCLA’s JP-II society in 1997-1999 -- have always been a fan.

In the spirit of seeking wisdom, I have to full-heartedly disagree with you on this one, though.

I too have a multitude of kids, and I have seen that exact Veggie Tales episode you cite. I think you miss the mark on three accounts you mention: the Sermon on the Mount, “turn the other cheek”, and on the veggie tales episode.

Sermon on the mount:
It would be folly for me to reinvent an interpretation on this one, given that all the greats have done most of the heavy-lifting for us. The main lesson of the sermon of the mount has been generally agreed to boil down to fulfillment of God’s laws, that started with Moses, as is written in Exodus 20 and 21. The parallelism between that other sermon on that other mount and this one is beyond debate, as has been thoroughly explored by nearly all the Doctors of the Church. In general, Jesus has come to fulfill the law and this is his highlight moment. Thus, the main lesson of the Sermon on the Mount boils down to Matthew 7:12 -- THE GOLDEN RULE, seeking to act with charity towards others, not about seeking righteousness.

“turn the other cheek”:
The context of this, again is that of fulfilling the commandments in Exodus. The old law was “an eye for an eye” referring to the frictions that come from living in families, communities, and peoples and is a justice-based law. Moses gave the first people of God a law that was about order and justice. Jesus is teaching us a new power – that of fighting aggression with peace, still fighting, nonetheless, and not about laying down. – it is a charity-based law. Turning the other cheek IS fighting, just a new way of fighting. Evidence that this is a real force exists in The End of Apartheid in South Africa, The Liberation of India, and the Civil Right’s Movement in the United States. Although these are political movements and not directly about individual virtues, the invention of passive resistance has at its heart, this new way of fighting. Still, rather than reinventing this position, please read it from a real pro, Saint Augustine: http://www.ewtn.com/vexperts/showmessage.asp?number=359564

Veggie Tales Episode:
The episode is right on. Jr. is scared and tempted to run away from his problem. He knows he is smaller and when the bully submits him, he becomes powerless to fight back. Notice, by the way, that the bully does not present an eminent threat of killing or violent destruction, at which point, a self-preservation approach should no doubt kick in. Still, Jr’s options are: 1) get injured further by a head on fight against a stronger, more aggressive bully, 2) organize the kids in the yard and resort to mob violence “lord of the flies”-style, or 3) apply this new force of fighting without striking back, converting the other kids and the bully. Jr. does exactly that and turns the hearts of both the other kids in the yard AND, most importantly, the bully; Jr. wins and, earns the respect of others and the bully, AND brings peace to the play-ground.

In my humble opinion, and what I want to teach my multitude of kids, hyperbole or not, is that turning the other cheek is a more powerful style of confronting day to day friction and persecution. If they have the power and strength NOT to be persecuted to begin with, then do that. But the context of being bullied starts with the reality that one might be facing a stronger, more aggressive force. If and when, as we all do at some point in our lives, they are confronted by an unfair use of authority or force such as a bully of any kind, have the courage, strength and determination to persevere and convert the hearts of both, the bully and those witnessing the aggression. To me that is the lesson, and what I want my kids to learn.

Thank you for your work; peace.

August 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm PST
#37  Pedro Erik Arruda Carneiro - Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

I understood, Tim, I loved that passage between St.Paul and St.Peter. I was considering the passages I mentioned to say that St.Paul followed Jesus.
By the way, in my house I keep St. Stephen statue close to St.Paul to remind that this great Saint, the greatest writer of New Testament, also was a sinner, just lke you and me.

Thanks.

God bless.

August 10, 2014 at 4:43 pm PST
#38  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

Jesus never turns the other cheek to demons. He never did when He walked on this earth, and He doesn't do it today. The difference is this. We Christians are to bear with persecution which targets only us. Jesus never told us to love other people's enemies and to do good to those who persecute others. He never told us to put other people's salvation at risk by forbearing with the likes of ISIS. He never commanded toleration of anyone who forces another to damn his soul by converting to his false religion.

The enmity which God has for the human enemy Amalek and for the evil spirits is a belligerent enmity which He takes on His own initiative and which is expressed in His fierce anger. This drives out evil spirits and kills people. Since it is refracted through the Sacred Humanity of God the Son, it must be expressed on earth in the use of the sword.

August 11, 2014 at 2:22 am PST
#39  Mark Advent - Simpsonville, South Carolina

This is another great scripture-packed article which also passes the common sense smell test. These articles are extremely important to me because I don't have the time, memorization skills, or will power to get into verse slinging when my faith is challenged.

August 11, 2014 at 4:59 pm PST
#40  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Jesus,
In response to your #36:
I'm not sure what you are disagreeing with me about in most of your comment. I agree with much of what you said. My problem with the Veggie Tales episode is Sr. Asparagus teaching Jr. Asparagus that sometimes we just have to "get pounded," and Jr. responding to this by rallying his friends to say "you are going to have to beat us all up..."
That is not the message of the Sermon on the Mount. And that is not what I want my children to do. We must seek to be peace-makers and try our best not to respond to violence with violence where we can, but the Sermon on the Mount should not be taken in a literalistic way.
It seems that folks tend to pick and choose which statements of our Lord they take in a strict and literal sense leading to some not taking oaths, some refusing to pray in public, etc. But I think those that do this are missing the mark when it comes to Jesus' actual message.

August 11, 2014 at 5:36 pm PST
#41  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Michael,
In response to your #38, I can certainly agree with you that there comes a time when the sword is necessary, as I said in my post. And the Sermon on the Mount in no way denies this to be so.

August 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm PST
#42  Louis Cote - Waterloo, Ontario

Hi Tim:
Thank you for the interesting article. Your premise that we should not let others just pound us is worthy of note.
* Yet I tend to agree with Walter Wink's interpretation found in The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium.
see:----
http://www.cpt.org/files/BN%20-%20Jesus'%20Third%20Way.pdf
---------
In short, to 'turn the other cheek' is not a passive act, but an act of defiance and redress. I think that the phrase means to not retaliate and return what was done to us.
* The context of this phrase is important and this is where Jesus' teaching is practical and revolutionary. I believe that listeners would have thought of the phrase 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' during the discourse. The reason Jesus did not state it outright is because it is so ingrained in our human way of thinking. Not stating it also increases the shock value of 'turning the other cheek'.
* I think relegating 'turn the other cheek' to the realm of hyperbole empties it of its impact. At minimum, it should mean the end of 'an eye for an eye'. Conflict is a part of life, but retribution (although simple) is not the way Jesus lived his life and mission.
With God's help we can find new ways to deal with conflicts.

August 11, 2014 at 9:26 pm PST
#43  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

In reply to #42 Louis
Jesus abstained from violence and retribution for two reasons. (1) As King He had no mandate from the Law to use violence on the facts of any situation in which He found Himself. (2) The civil authorities were there do visit God's retribution on evildoers, which is the normal way of Providence.

Jesus' condition changed when He ascended into heaven. His Sacred Humanity shares in the fullness of the Divine Majesty which is exercised most excellently in the giving and taking of human life. That is proved by the fact that marriage between Christians has been raised to the dignity of a sacrament.

The only mandate Jesus has to use force comes from the mitzvot of war: for the defense of Israel and for the destruction of Amalek, and He executes it through the armies of heaven and earth.

August 11, 2014 at 10:26 pm PST
#44  Jesus Gaytan - Los Angeles, California

Tim: in response to #40

Thanks for responding; appreciate it. Here is my feedback.

RE:
I'm not sure what you are disagreeing with me about in most of your comment.

I say: I am disagreeing with you in several ways.
Per your article: The entire Sermon on the Mount can be summed up in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” The idea here is God must come first in every aspect of our lives.

As I pointed out, I don’t think that is true. If I had to pick what the sermon amounts to, I would say that it is The Golden Rule. In fact, Jesus repeats this at another very critical part of his life lesson – at the institution of the Eucharist, John reveals to us that Jesus gifted us through his disciples, a single commandment that completes his love – Love each other as he loved us, and we all know he did that to his death.

RE:
Sr. Asparagus teaching Jr. Asparagus that sometimes we just have to "get pounded," and Jr. responding to this by rallying his friends to say "you are going to have to beat us all up..."

I say: I think you miss a fundamental point: Sr. Asparagus knows his son; Jr. is a small boy and the bully is a substantially larger veggie. I would argue Sr. is being very frank and practical with Jr. and his message is that unless Jr. trains “karate-kid” style, Jr. is at the mercy of circumstance that the bully has an overwhelming advantage. Notice that at first, the bully submits him completely. Still, Jr. can use an unconventional tactic – defy and endure with courage. I ask you as a father, would you advice your considerably smaller, ill trained son to fight a much larger, well-established bully, especially when you may believe your son may actually have the intelligence and courage to convert the bully and the others on the playground as did Jr.? In a secondary point, even though Jr. tells the bully he will have to pound them all, taking it at his literal word counters the courage of his behavior in the scene.

RE:
That is not the message of the Sermon on the Mount. And that is not what I want my children to do. We must seek to be peace-makers and try our best not to respond to violence with violence where we can, but the Sermon on the Mount should not be taken in a literalistic way.

I say: I agree that that is not the message of the Sermon on the Mount, but neither is it truly about turning the other cheek in general, and certainly not in the context of:
“We should always seek peace even though sometimes self-defense or even war becomes necessary (cf. Eccl. 3:3, 8).”

RE:
It seems that folks tend to pick and choose which statements of our Lord they take in a strict and literal sense leading to some not taking oaths, some refusing to pray in public, etc. But I think those that do this are missing the mark when it comes to Jesus' actual message.

I say: I very much agree with you on that; our society relishes taking things out of context. (and please note I am not saying you do that, as I am a fan). However, and with utmost respect, in this case, I believe you are guilty as charged. ?

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most foundational stages in the history of salvation and that in this case, again, with total respect, I believe you are misrepresenting it yourself.

Whereas I agree with you that neglect for justice or cowardice too is a vice, I would bet a quarter, maybe a dollar, that Jesus was not trying to call our attention to that at the sermon as much as he was to teaching us to think understand very profound Godly and Fatherly realities. There are better lessons for us in the Bible to exemplify justice, fighting back, or not being afraid to fight a stronger opponent such as the Battle of Jericho or David and Goliath, which as it turns out, Veggie Tales also has great versions of.

Again, to the point of instructing our multitudes of children, I advance that the lesson of Sr. Asparagus is not that off from something Jesus might be supportive of, in the context of the Sermon at the Mount and that, again, in that context, it is not literal to teach our children the power of fighting with their minds and hearts, is more insightful that teaching them to stand up in a fight against and overwhelming opponent.

August 12, 2014 at 12:00 am PST
#45  Louis Cote - Waterloo, Ontario

to Michael Petek ...
I think 'turn the other cheek' applies first of all to individual interaction. Granted that corporate actions are made up of individual contributions, transposing one on one ethics to the corporate dimension is never a good idea or even permissible.
I think the point Jesus is making is that we should not just passively accept evil done to us. Certainly we should not present the same cheek for a second slap. Neither simply running away is the answer; presenting the other cheek is remaining engaged in 'dialogue'.
The revolutionary character of this verse is truly astounding. May God give us courage and wisdom in the way we live it.

August 12, 2014 at 5:35 am PST
#46  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

#45 Louis
There is a principled way to approach this. The Seven Rules of Hillel can be applied here, namely "kelal uferat" (The general and the particular)

A general principle may be restricted by a particularization of it in another verse – or, conversely, a particular rule may be extended into a general principle. A Tanach (OT) example: Genesis 1:27 makes the general statement that God created man. Genesis 2:7, 21 particularizes this by giving the details of the creation of Adam and Eve. Other examples would be verses detailing with how to perform sacrifices or how to keep the feasts. In the Gospels, the principle of divorce being allowed for "uncleanliness," is particularized to mean for sexual immorality only.

The rule to love your enemy and do good those those who persecute you is a general principle expressed in open-textured language. It does not apply to a special case expressly covered by another legal rule. An example of such a special rule would be the law to wage holy war against Amalek.

August 12, 2014 at 8:17 am PST
#47  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Louis,
In response to your #42:
As I said in a comment above, Walter Wink's theory has no Patristic support, nor does it have Magisterial support. Plus, you have Jesus Christ himself not "turning the other cheek" in John 18:23 and John 10:31-32. This has to be taken as hyperbole, and not literal.
Does hyperbole "empty" the many other examples I cited of their meanings. Absolutely not! It calls attention to the teaching in dramatic fashion. Does hyperbole empty Luke 14:26 of its meaning: "If any man come to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."
Actually, the use of hyperbole is very effective in calling attention to an important principle. Our Lord peppers its usage throughout the Sermon on the Mount, as I said in my post.

August 12, 2014 at 12:42 pm PST
#48  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

In response to #47 Tim Staples
Even if it were not hyperbole, it would still express a general rule which does not apply in a case covered by the special rule concerning Amalek.

August 12, 2014 at 12:53 pm PST
#49  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Jesus,
In response to your #44:
I think both of us over-generalized. I don't agree with you that the Golden Rule sums up the whole Sermon on the Mount, nor do I agree with my assertion above that Matt. 6:33 sums up the whole Sermon on the Mount either. Perhaps it would be better to say the Golden Rule sums up part of it (when dealing with interpersonal relationships), and Matt. 6:33 sums up the sections dealing with trusting God for material needs.
I think we were both wrong, in that sense.

You give Sr. more credit than is due. He did not have all the details that you claim. But having said that, I don't disagree with the fact that he challenges his son to take a stand, and to avoid responding to violence with violence. All of that is good. But to leave the child with the understanding that there is not a time to fight is dangerous. And it is also not true, plain and simple, as I said in my post.

Thus, I teach my children to fight. I teach them the proper way to throw a punch and that it really doesn't matter how big the boy standing in front of them is. A strong punch to the nose, chin, throat (or other areas of the body when necessary) is the equalizer. Sometimes friendships are born after a punch in the nose, just as after "turning the other cheek."

I personally had just such an experience where I was punched in the nose and then had to beat up a boy when I was in ca. the third grade. We became best friends. I think the problem here is misrepresenting Jesus as a pacifist when he was not. And this gets back to the problem of not understanding our Lord's use of hyperbole.

So I encourage my sons to always attempt to be peace-makers, but to also remember they have a responsibility to preserve their own lives and well-being as well a la CCC 2264. "Taking a pounding" a la Veggie Tales is not an option to me or my children. And that is not what Jesus was saying in the Sermon on the Mount either.

And by the way, "hav[ing] the intelligence and courage" as you said is necessary in both turning the other cheek as well as in using necessary force to defend oneself. I don't agree with you that the former requires intelligence, and the latter mere brute force.

You say taking Jr. at his literal word counters the courage of his behavior in the scene. Here I think you are wrong. I am not taking away from Jr.'s courage. I am questioning Sr.'s advice in the first place. Children tend to believe their parents and try to live by what they teach. And children also tend to take things literally. It is actually hard to teach young kids the ideas of parody, sarcasm, and the fact that Veggie Tales is not a documentary, if you know what I mean. Thus, it is all the more dangerous to teach kids that Jesus was teaching pacifism. It is not true and thus it is always a bad thing. But to teach children this is especially dangerous. It can indeed lead to "getting pounded," and worse. It can lead to a young boy losing faith. "If God calls me to get beat up... so much for God." If Jesus' words are taught in a more balanced way, that danger is greatly diminished.

You say the Sermon on the Mount is not about, "We should always seek peace even though sometimes self-defense or even war becomes necessary," and that is true. He does not deal with those subjects in his famous sermon. But the Sermon on the Mount must be understood in the context of the entire analogy of faith. That was my point.

You say I am "misrepresenting" the Sermon on the Mount, but you have yet to show me how. You agree with me that self-defense, at times, is a necessity. So you agree that Jesus was not teaching pacifism here. You agree that Jesus was not saying we must "take a pounding" a la the message of Veggie Tales. And that was the core of what I objected to. So where am I missing it?

I never said that a literal "turning of the cheek" is not meritorious, nor did I say that it is not something a Christian ought never to do. What I was and am objecting to is the false notion that Jesus was teaching this as an absolute. You seem to agree. So again, I ask, where am I wrong on this?

To your point about other "lessons in the Bible to exemplify justice, fighting back," etc. You make my point. Whenever we teach the Bible, we have to be cognizant of the entirety of the Faith, less we take texts out of context and distort their meaning, which is precisely what the Veggie Tales episode in question does.

Finally, you say "the lesson of Sr. Asparagus is not that off..." I don't agree. I think it is way off. But at least we both agree that it was "off." My contention is, lets get it right and in proper balance. And let's not teach our children something as true that is actually "off," as you said.

Children "using their minds?" I'm all for it. That is why the Sermon on the Mount should be taught to children as a part of our Catholic Faith in its entirety.

You say "standing up against an overwhelming opponent" is out of the question. Isn't that to discount other stories in the Bible like David and Goliath, Jericho, or the Battle of Lepanto? I personally am glad that my father taught me that sometimes you have to fight living as a man in this world of ours. When I was punched in the nose by a bully in the third grade (that I mentioned above), my response was to fight back. And in the end, I taught the other boy a lesson. Respect. Yes, I won the fight. But we became friends and he learned he ought to respect others... the hard way. I don't know what would have happened if I just passively let him "pound me." But I would never recommend that anyone allow themselves to be so "pounded" a la Veggie Tales. And neither does Jesus.

August 12, 2014 at 1:36 pm PST
#50  Jesus Gaytan - Los Angeles, California

Tim, Response to#49:

Agreed; it would take a life-time to truly understand the Sermon on the mount. So yeah, we probably both are gonna get it wrong.

Regarding what to teach our kids, your point is valid, we SHOULD teach them self-defense; I have three sons, and each does know how to defend themselves. But as it turns out, most techniques teach them first and foremost how to avoid the fight to begin with.

I speak from first hand observation as well; I have witnessed my oldest (12) talk an older more aggressive boy down. I know my son is fast and quick-witted and would have easily defended himself. Offering the other boy to "pound him" is not the real message and I don't see Jr. offering it in good faith; I insist that Jr. had already shown the courage to stand up to the bully, and that is the first phase of any defense strategy. My son is now friends with that other boy, as it turns out, no fight was needed. I guess there are many ways to skin a cat.

I suppose your perspective is valid, but I still don't see Jesus standing next to my son, egging on for him to throw a punch or even threaten to do so to resolve that precise situation; I particularly don't see Jesus reminding my son to keep in mind what he learned the other day at the sermon on the mount in his fight preparation.

If we do the math, if both dads teach their kids to not to defuse the situation with wit, and be ready to throw a punch, most kids WILL throw a punch. In that world every kid earns a broken nose or black eye sometime in their life.

My children are not afraid to confront a bully, no child should, but I bet a quarter, maybe a dollar, that more leadership emerges from talking down a bully, whatever the words may be (again, does require intelligence and courage) than readily jumping into a fight, as you suggest.

In the words of Braveheart's dad (which in my humble opinion, do resonate with Sr. as portrayed in the whole VeggieTale series, and would have Jesus' backing):

"I know you can fight. But it's our wits that make us men."

Thanks for the debate; peace.

August 12, 2014 at 2:28 pm PST
#51  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Jesus,
In response to your last. When you said, "I still don't see Jesus standing next to my son, egging on for him to throw a punch or even threaten to do so to resolve that precise situation..." it sounded like you were saying that is what I believe. I was sure you really didn't mean what it sounded like you were saying. But then you said I was teaching my kids to "readily jump into a fight."

Really?

I will repeat one last time what I actually said. Jesus is here teaching us to be peace-makers and to "use our wits" as you said. But that does not mean we have to "get pounded" a la the Veggie Tales episode that I was critical of. Jesus was not condemning self-defense or being ready to throw a punch if necessary.

What you said above is a complete misrepresentation of what I said.

August 13, 2014 at 8:25 am PST
#52  Michael Petek - Brighton, East Sussex

Peacemaking in the Bible is about appointing a King. Jesus, a just King and not a lawless tyrant, doesn't normally order the use of force. But when He has a lawful mandate to do so, He does. He also celebrated two annual festivals of military significance, Purim and Hanukkah:

"Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!" (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

August 13, 2014 at 9:22 am PST
#53  Jesus Gaytan - Los Angeles, California

Tim,

To your last: perhaps.

Never my intent to misrepresent. In either case, awesome dialog, so thanks for your work.

Please keep it going.

August 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm PST
#54  Greg Dill - Fort Worth, Texas

Tim,

As a Protestant currently being drawn to the Catholic Church, I must ask... is your position on these topics the same position as the Holy Catholic Church? That all of these sayings of Jesus is mere hyperbole rather than literal. Or, is this only your position and how you see it?

In my humble opinion your stand on "turning the other cheek" is a reflection of your military service. As a former Marine it would be difficult to reconcile Christ's teachings on this with your military service. I can see why you would have misgivings with Jesus' commands to turn the other cheek and to pray for and love our enemies especially when as a Marine you become trained to kill our enemies.

I digress, I too am a military veteran with 10 years of service under my belt. But, when I became a believer in Christ and understood His teachings on peace and non-violence, I could no longer reconcile this with my service in the military. I made the decision to end my service.

I go back to the original question: Is this the Catholic Church's official stand on this issue? Or, is this only yours?

Your Brother in Christ,

greg

September 26, 2014 at 6:02 am PST
#55  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Greg,
The Catholic Church does not have an official interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount specific to your question. But the Church comes close in the Catechism of the Catholic Church by referring to Matt. 5:22-39, and 44 in paragraphs 2262-65 (and more):

2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill," and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies. He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty
for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility."

Thus, however one interprets Matt. 5, he cannot as a Catholic interpret it to equal, or even imply, pacifism. While the Church does respect an individual's right to refuse to take up arms for reasons of conscience, she is not pacifist (see CCC 2310-11), and does not interpret Matt. 5 (or any other text of Scripture) as espousing pacifism.

October 9, 2014 at 9:56 am PST

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