Recently, I have heard a couple different people speak of turning the other cheek. Their use of the phrase, though, indicated they really didn’t understand the concept. They used it to suggest that someone who had been wronged should just ignore the wrong and go on. That’s not really the idea.
The whole notion of turning the other cheek came from what we call Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” He said, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39).
Jesus is not suggesting that when someone does us wrong, we should ignore the wrong. Actually, He’s saying to let them go ahead and do more wrong.
The next couple verses give more information. “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.”
That’s not a simple ignoring of the wrong. It’s a deliberate choice allowing someone to take advantage of you even more than he already has. (It should be noted that there is a qualitative difference between receiving a slap on the cheek or giving a cloak and some sort of serious bodily injury.)
This idea reminds me of the elderly priest in Les Misérables. Jean Valjean, recently released from prison, visited the priest. The cleric fed Valjean and gave him lodging for the night. Valjean returned the favor by stealing his solid silver cutlery. When Valjean was arrested, he was returned to the priest’s home, so the clergyman could identify the man and his property. But the priest told the police that he gave Valjean the cutlery and then declared, “I gave you the candlesticks, too, which are silver like the rest and would bring you two hundred francs. Why didn’t you take them along with your cutlery?” And he thrust the candlesticks into Valjean’s hands.
He was robbed, and he gave the thief more. That’s turning the other cheek.