As I read through study notes and commentaries on this passage, here are a few things it is not meaning:
Read Matthew 5:38-42.
"Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." NIV
- If someone pokes your eye out, you are to literally poke their eye out.
- If someone attacks you, you do not defend yourself.
- If someone strikes you on the cheek, you turn your face so they will strike you on the other cheek. (See John 18:22-23.)
- That Christians are supposed to be mamby-pansies and let people walk all over us because of our faith.
What it does mean is we are not to exact revenge against those who would try to hurt us. We can seek justice -- God clearly teaches that wrong behavior requires punishment. But only in the judicial system - not in a personal act. We can also defend ourselves from the attacks. You don't have to stand there and be whipped to death. Put your arms up or run. The idea is to not seek out a way to get back at someone. Let justice take its course - whether in the earthly courts or the Lord's.
I also believe this verse speaks to humble generosity. Jesus clearly states that we are to give generously when someone wants our stuff or even forces us to help them. I think here of the whole, "kill them with kindness." In the end, it's just things and not worth squabbling over. Let them have your stuff; they can't take your soul. And for a truly dedicated believer, it's all the Lord's anyway.
- Research this passages and read the study notes and commentaries to get a complete picture of the passage and its historical origins.
- Read the study notes from Exodus 21:23-25 and Leviticus 24:20. Compare and contrast acts of retribution with acts of love.
- Some acts of cruelty against you will not be punished in this life. Look up the word "avenge" and read how God will take care of the injustices that sin has brought about.
- So what is your plan now when someone hurts you? What would Jesus do?