Turning the Other Cheek…NOT

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Matt. 5:39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Just recently I conducted an interview with Meaghan Kelly from Foxnews and one of the very first questions she asked was “Didn’t Jesus say to turn the other cheek?”  If you are like me then you have probably had this question asked a hundred times. How does the Christian who practices martial arts, self-defense, or mixed martial arts answer this question?  I hope through looking at this passage I can help you give an answer that honors the Scriptures and martial arts.
As Christians we have the responsibility to examine the Scriptures and to apply them to our lives.   In Matthew 5:39 Jesus tells his disciples “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”  Does this mean as Christians we cant defend ourselves?  Does it mean as Christians that we could not be martial artists, boxers, mixed martial artist or even policemen and soldiers?  I think not.
Whenever we look at this passage from the Bible, it is important for us to ask two things. What was the intent of the author?  And what would the audience have understood? In the context of Jesus’ message of turning the other cheek, he was specifically referring to not taking personal vengeance, but allowing the judicial system to do its duty and apply the appropriate punishment for the transgression.
The first century audience would have never understood Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek to have applied to the Olympic games that were played at that time nor would they have understood it to be a command of becoming a doormat and allowing other people to walk over them and abuse them.  One commentary even goes as far as to say “He is not instructing us to passively sit by while evil triumphs or to be an implicit accomplice in physical violence when one can keep it in check.” (Arrington, 160)
Now, after looking at this passage in its appropriate context we can then ask how does this apply to self-defense?  How does it apply to walking down the street with your wife or girlfriend and someone is going to force himself on her?  How does it apply to the person who wants to join an activity to get them in shape?  How does it apply to competition for our children or Mixed Martial Arts? The answer is…it doesn’t.
Edmund Burke once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Often times turning the other cheek is presented to us in the vein of doing nothing.  But as Christians and Martial Artists, we have the duty to be men and women of integrity who defend those who are weak, poor, disenfranchised and ourselves without pursuing our own agenda or retribution for some wrong done to us.


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