Do You Turn a Blind Eye or Turn the Other Cheek?

 

Turn The Other Cheek

There have been a few incidents that have happened in various environments that I am involved with that made me stop and ask myself, “Have I been turning a blind eye or have I been turning the other cheek?” I think this is a question we should all stop and ask ourselves sometimes.

To honestly ask yourself this question, it’s best to take a look at the meaning of both of these phrases and actions.

Turn a blind eye: “An idiom describing the ignoring of undesirable information.” Source: Wikipedia

Turn the other cheek: This requires a much longer explanation and can’t be simplified into one sentence, so I opted instead, to quote a few paragraphs from Marcus Borg as found on Belief.net

“The key to understanding Wink’s argument is rigorous attention to the social customs of the Jewish homeland in the first century and what these sayings would have meant in that context.

To illustrate with the saying about turning the other cheek: it specifies that the person has been struck on the right cheek. How can you be struck on the right cheek? As Wink emphasizes, you have to act this out in order to get the point: you can be struck on the right cheek only by an overhand blow with the left hand, or with a backhand blow from the right hand. (Try it).

But in that world, people did not use the left hand to strike people. It was reserved for “unseemly” uses [Wiping one’s self after having a bowel movement]. Thus, being struck on the right cheek meant that one had been backhanded with the right hand. Given the social customs of the day, a backhand blow was the way a superior hit an inferior, whereas one fought social equals with fists.

This means the saying presupposes a setting in which a superior is beating a peasant. What should the peasant do? “Turn the other cheek.” What would be the effect? The only way the superior could continue the beating would be with an overhand blow with the fist–which would have meant treating the peasant as an equal.

Perhaps the beating would not have been stopped by this. But for the superior, it would at the very least have been disconcerting: he could continue the beating only by treating the peasant as a social peer. As Wink puts it, the peasant was in effect saying, “I am your equal. I refuse to be humiliated anymore.”
Source: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2004/04/What-Would-Jesus-Think-Of-Kings-Protests.aspx?p=1

It is tempting and often times easier to turn a blind eye to injustice and other wrongs we witness being committed against others. This past lent I have once again been reminded that Jesus does not want us to turn a blind eye, instead, he has commanded us to turn the other cheek. It isn’t easy to do, and it comes with a cost which is why it is often the option least likely to be chosen.

Jesus calls us to not retaliate. Justice is not a form of retaliation. Jesus doesn’t expect us to be docile and allow ourselves to be abused, discriminated against, and systemically oppressed. However, what he does tell us is that injustice exists, and we can fight against it without resorting to violence, bloodshed, and physical injury.

When we live in an unjust society, we still have to go to work for corrupt employers, we still need to follow certain laws that are passed, and we still have to deal with dishonest institutions who are often ready to discriminate against certain populations. If we spend our time fighting injustice with constant community violence, we take away from being able to use our minds and skills to change our culture from one of injustice to one of justice and inclusion.

When it comes to dealing with atrocities in our communities, I truly believe that Jesus is asking us to use our minds instead of our weapons. Have an open mind, be willing to sit at the table with a diverse group of thinkers and together create a legal and social society where violence is not a necessary way for living. When we use our minds, we might never have to pick up a weapon to strike our oppressor and those who discriminate against us.

Show Respect To Others

QUESTIONS and ACTIONS:

How do you respond to uncomfortable situations involving discrimination and systemic oppression? Could it be categorized as “turning a blind eye” or “turning the other cheek”?

What are ways that you can deal with others in a non-violent manner while fighting for respect, justice, and rights?

If you haven’t already read all of Matthew 5, I highly recommend it. If you’ve read it in the past, it’s still a great chapter to review, these teachings are never outdated or irrelevant.

 

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