Blessed are the meek; turn the other cheek. So sayeth the Gospel. These are among the most quoted and influential passages of the Bible, and they have profoundly shaped Christian thought and behavior throughout the ages. They are the main reasons that Christianity has always been known as the religion of peace, and why tolerance and patience are universal virtues among Christians.
However, many Christian conservatives feel that their tolerance is being exploited. Christian kindness has been rewarded with being blamed for all the ills in the world: racism, slavery, imperialism, you name it.
Even the crusades have been tarnished as horrible and unjust. The truth is that for 400 years, Christian Europe turned the other cheek to Islamic imperialism before finally deciding to defend themselves. Leftists have branded this act of Christian self-defense one of the greatest atrocities in human history.
Are they right? Should Christendom not have defended itself and allowed itself to become conquered?
It all boils down to how you read the Bible. Interestingly, Jesus himself does not come off as particularly docile, and in Matthew 5:17 he says:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
But to the casual reader, it seems hard to reconcile turning the other cheek with “an eye for an eye.” However, that is what Jesus claims. How do we square that circle?
It may have something to do with honesty in relations to others. In John 8:32 Jesus says that “the truth will set you free.” When someone hits you on the cheek, was it an accident or misunderstanding? Was it a momentary lapse of reason, or was it a deliberate act reflecting something more sinister?
If you immediately strike back, you will never know. If, however, you turn the other cheek, you give the other person a chance to reveal his true self. Will he be ashamed and show remorse at your tolerance, or will he be emboldened and take advantage of it? Turning the other cheek will reveal the truth of what lies in their heart, and if you use it correctly you can use that truth to set yourself free from those who prey on your empathy and kindness.
If this interpretation is correct, you should be tolerant at first to allow the transgressor to show remorse and shame. If they don’t, you know the truth about the kind of people you are dealing with and you should withhold your tolerance.
Too Much Tolerance?
Consider the current situation. Conservative Christians have been very patient with the left and turned the cheek to them repeatedly. Have they shown gratitude or have their demands intensified with every strike?
If you have been paying attention over the years you already know the answer, and now you know what to do. Turn the other cheek – but only once, to learn the truth. If they take advantage of you, end the relationship with them and withdraw your tolerance until they decide to rejoin civil discourse.
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