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Cheek Turning: Is it Practical Advice?

"If someone strikes you," counseled Jesus, "turn the other cheek!" Completely impractical words, wouldn't you agree?

Who does this? You get sucker-punched on one side of the face and you're supposed to submissively turn the other cheek too? Give me a break! Such nonsense could never possibly work. Just ask the Israelis. Or the Palestinians. Right?

Maybe not. But maybe it does too. But then, how would anyone know? Has it ever really been tried?

Oh, sure, there are those of us who mistakenly think that turning the other cheek means running from conflict, or rolling over and taking abuse, or disappearing to a remote corner to lick our wounds.

I'm not talking about this, and neither is Jesus. However, I do know what it's like to do everything I can to please everybody, to fix everyone as well as every situation, and then, when I fail, which is almost always, running at the first sign of disagreement in order to avoid a negative reaction or, worse, rejection.

Instead, Jesus is talking here about real cheek turning, or a radical departure from the more common method of handling conflict between two people, two religions, or two peoples or nations.

Like the Israelis and Palestinians.

Like Christians and Muslims.

Like the Americans and, well, just about everybody else.

See "Link to External Source Article" below to read further.


Are the words of Jesus practical? Are his teachings really usable in the world today?

This article is a kind-of "tongue-in-cheek" response to Jesus advice to "turn the other cheek," but the author wants us to see this advice in a new way, as do the revelators of The Urantia Book.

In The Urantia Book, we witness Jesus offering this advice at least twice. Here, he enjoins the apostles during the Ordination sermon:

140:3.14 "I am sending you out into the world to represent me and to act as ambassadors of my Father's kingdom, and as you go forth to proclaim the glad tidings, put your trust in the Father whose messengers you are. Do not forcibly resist injustice; put not your trust in the arm of the flesh. If your neighbor smites you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Be willing to suffer injustice rather than to go to law among yourselves. In kindness and with mercy minister to all who are in distress and in need.

But here, in the Urantia Book section called "The Positive Nature of Jesus' Religion," we learn the real meaning behind this seemingly difficult advice.

"Jesus did not hesitate to appropriate the better half of a Scripture while he repudiated the lesser portion. His great exhortation, "Love your neighbor as yourself," he took from the Scripture which reads: "You shall not take vengeance against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus appropriated the positive portion of this Scripture while rejecting the negative part. He even opposed negative or purely passive nonresistance. Said he: "When an enemy smites you on one cheek, do not stand there dumb and passive but in positive attitude turn the other; that is, do the best thing possible actively to lead your brother in error away from the evil paths into the better ways of righteous living." Jesus required his followers to react positively and aggressively to every life situation. The turning of the other cheek, or whatever act that may typify, demands initiative, necessitates vigorous, active, and courageous expression of the believer’s personality.

"Jesus did not advocate the practice of negative submission to the indignities of those who might purposely seek to impose upon the practitioners of nonresistance to evil, but rather that his followers should be wise and alert in the quick and positive reaction of good to evil to the end that they might effectively overcome evil with good. Forget not, the truly good is invariably more powerful than the most malignant evil. The Master taught a positive standard of righteousness: "Whosoever wishes to be my disciple, let him disregard himself and take up the full measure of his responsibilities daily to follow me." And he so lived himself in that "he went about doing good." And this aspect of the gospel was well illustrated by many parables which he later spoke to his followers. He never exhorted his followers patiently to bear their obligations but rather with energy and enthusiasm to live up to the full measure of their human responsibilities and divine privileges in the kingdom of God.

"When Jesus instructed his apostles that they should, when one unjustly took away the coat, offer the other garment, he referred not so much to a literal second coat as to the idea of doing something positive to save the wrongdoer in the place of the olden advice to retaliate—"an eye for an eye" and so on. Jesus abhorred the idea either of retaliation or of becoming just a passive sufferer or victim of injustice. On this occasion he taught them the three ways of contending with, and resisting, evil:

"1. To return evil for evil—the positive but unrighteous method.

"2. To suffer evil without complaint and without resistance—the purely negative method.

"3. To return good for evil, to assert the will so as to become master of the situation, to overcome evil with good—the positive and righteous method."

The author also makes an interesting statement in his article, and asks an intriguing question: could this advice ever actually work? He says:

"But here's the question I cannot escape: How do we know cheek turning is impractical? Has anyone tried it lately?"

We ask also: can we bring this advice of Jesus to the 21st century table? Can it still inspire – and more importantly, can it be practicable? As we read in the passages above, "turning the other cheek" is a metaphor for dealing with conflict; the "positive and righteous method" of effecting resolution of conflict is to return good for evil, thereby becoming master of the situation by force of the God-inspired will.

But this is not an easy task. If it was easy, our world would look far different than it does at present. It is difficult because it does require a decision of will on the part of the God-knowing believer…a decision to rise above evil, and to dominate it by the force of goodness. How many of us are prepared to live this way?

From The Urantia Book:

195:9.6 Primitive man lived a life of superstitious bondage to religious fear. Modern, civilized men dread the thought of falling under the dominance of strong religious convictions. Thinking man has always feared to be held by a religion. When a strong and moving religion threatens to dominate him, he invariably tries to rationalize, traditionalize, and institutionalize it, thereby hoping to gain control of it. By such procedure, even a revealed religion becomes man-made and man-dominated. Modern men and women of intelligence evade the religion of Jesus because of their fears of what it will do to them—and with them. And all such fears are well founded. The religion of Jesus does, indeed, dominate and transform its believers, demanding that men dedicate their lives to seeking for a knowledge of the will of the Father in heaven and requiring that the energies of living be consecrated to the unselfish service of the brotherhood of man.

"Selfish men and women simply will not pay such a price for even the greatest spiritual treasure ever offered mortal man. Only when man has become sufficiently disillusioned by the sorrowful disappointments attendant upon the foolish and deceptive pursuits of selfishness, and subsequent to the discovery of the barrenness of formalized religion, will he be disposed to turn wholeheartedly to the gospel of the kingdom, the religion of Jesus of Nazareth."

This is a passage that should make all of us think whether we are willing to really LIVE our belief – to really act out the principles of Jesus’ religion in our daily lives. If we are willing, we will become beacons of hope in this dark world, and we will become the models (after Jesus) of the joys of living the spiritual life…joy that is born in the realms of the inner life of the believer. The believer who has overcome him/herself in this way has no fear of Jesus’ religion dominating their life; in fact, they desire that above all, for it is a life that can be lived on a plane far above the drudgery of material life – a life that has its foundation in the very real Kingdom of God.

So, is this advice completely impractical? Or is it rather completely challenging? Are we up to the task?

Link to External Source Article

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