Only together, hand in hand, as God’s family and not as one another’s enemy, can we ever hope to end the vicious cycle of revenge and retribution.
Desmond Tutu in God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time (2003)
“If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them.”
Imagine someone stealing your cell phone. You catch them in the act. Rather than stopping them from stealing your phone, though, you decide to give them your tablet and all other devices and games. How would that person react? They would probably be very confused.
In Jesus’ day it was not uncommon for a Roman soldier to strike a person or take property from people. Turning the other cheek when slapped would be a way of standing up to someone without seeking revenge. Giving the soldier more than what they seek to steal would be a bewildering act.
As Paul writes in the book of Romans, “don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.” By turning your cheek or giving generously to a wrongdoer, you invite that person to see their own wrongdoing as it is. Instead of retaliating or seeking revenge, you invite them to see a better way. The way of Jesus compels us to do good even when others do wrong. By doing this, we can end the cycle of revenge and begin to see one another as family.
God who is good, Christ calls us to do works of goodness and kindness — even when others do us wrong. Help me not to be defeated by the wrong, but to defeat wrong with all that is good and loving and kind. Amen.
As you go, remember you are loved,
loved so deeply by the God who loves this world.
Drawing from the divine depths of this love,
may you join hands with others — even your enemies —
in making God’s dream come true.