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Lessons in turning the other cheek

From the November 2006 issue of The Christian Science Journal

IT DOESN'T COME MORE CHALLENGING THAT THIS: "'You have heard it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also" (Matt. 5:38, 39, New Revised Standard Version). Yet this command, of all the teachings and directives Jesus gave his followers, may prove the most effective answer to healing the world's threatening disputes—political, territorial, religious.

Jesus offers this instruction as part of a series of commands in his Sermon on the Mount, each one demonstrating what he describes as a righteousness that "'exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees'" (Matt. 5:20, NRSV). Jesus promises that this greater righteousness will not abolish the law, but will fulfill it (see Matt. 5:17, NRSV). This fulfillment is the new covenant the great prophet Jeremiah had prophesied: "I [God] will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer. 31:33).

The eye-for-an-eye rule had, for millennia, successfully helped to curb violent acts by giving the victim an equal, one-time opportunity in which to return the same (not a worse) offense. Society considered this the most just way to resolve conflict. Yet Jesus knew that this traditional means did not get to the heart of the matter—healing the "inward parts" of those involved.

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