Turn The Other Cheek
A Biblical Approach to Abuse and Those Who Hurt You.
I wanted to write him off forever. One of my closest friends had just wronged me in a significant way, deciding to do something that completely and painfully broke my trust in him. The situation hurt me deeply and built up a wall of distance and caution for years. About a year after the incident, another friend asked me why I seemed so distant from this friend. After explaining why, the well-intended response was, "Well, shouldn't you just 'turn the other cheek'?" Their question came from Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:38-40:
"I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."
Maybe you've had a similar circumstance. Perhaps your situation involved someone who chronically causes pain or has proven distrustful. Maybe you've been abused and are wrestling with this question: "What is the proper response to those who have deeply hurt me?"
Because I want to focus on a Biblical approach to handling hurt, abuse, and untrustworthy people, I'll only spend a brief time breaking down why this verse isn't a command to accept and invite more hurt.
What Does "Turn The Other Cheek" Mean?
The context of this verse (and all verses) is crucial. In the previous verses, Jesus is talking about "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." When the word "resist" is used, it's in response to revenge and retaliation. The Greek-English Lexicon affirms this point. In a number of languages, one may appropriately translate 'to resist' in a number of contexts as 'to fight back against or 'to oppose in return.'  Again, the context is retaliation. "Turn the other cheek" is Jesus' call to non-retaliation. "Resist" and "Turn the other cheek" are NOT permissions to continue the act. It does mean relinquishing your vengeance (and in a larger Biblical context, ultimately giving it to the Lord). Now, there is a vulnerability for turning the other cheek as it exposes you to more pain, BUT- and let me be VERY clear- that does not mean there are no consequences for the person who has wronged you. There are (and should) be both temporal and eternal consequences. The temporal could mean a break of the relationship, jail time, punishment from God during their life here on earth, etc. The eternal consequences are exactly what I just mentioned. "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord." While we are saved by grace, there will be a judgment. Those who don't know Jesus will be handed over to the fullness of their sin (including the sin they've done against you). For believers, there will be rewards and a lack of rewards according to how we've lived-and that is not something to be taken lightly.
With that clarified, I want to spend the rest of this blog answering, "What is a Biblical approach to handling abuse, hurt, or mistrust?"
"What Is A Biblical Approach To Handling Abuse, Hurt, Or Mistrust?"
GET OUT OF THE SITUATION
Proverbs 27:12 says, "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on suffer for it." Many characters in the Bible (including Jesus) saw danger and fled. Yes, ultimately, Jesus walks towards the abuser/ torturer (because that was what He had come to do). Still, throughout His ministry, Jesus faced danger and fled from it. This is also true of David, Paul, Moses, and almost every major Bible character. If you've heard "you have to stay in your situation," and you're facing someone who is chronically hurting you, that's danger- get out!
Luke 17:3 says, "If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him." Webster's Dictionary defines rebuke as reproving, reprimanding, or forbidding. It is, in essence, setting boundaries. What those boundaries are will depend on the offense. In my case, it took years before I put myself in a situation where I would trust my friend, years before I could talk to him with the openness we had before the event. Boundaries are there for your protection AND the protection of the one hurting you. If you have someone in your life who continually hurts you, boundaries set limits to their access to that hurt, in essence protecting them from their opportunity to hurt.
If you read these two Biblical permissions with hesitation or disagreement, let me remind you that Jesus calls Himself "The Good Shepherd." A shepherd's primary responsibility is to protect the sheep from danger and steer them away from things that can harm them. A response to abuse and chronic pain that says "you should just accept it" is not a shepherd's response.
BUT… Isn't our interaction with the world supposed to look lovingly different?
Yes, and that is where the Biblical Mandates come into play.
What Are The Biblical Commands We Must Follow?
Luke 6:27-28 is a command Jesus gave right before His "turn the other cheek" statement. "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." Yes, that is right, and extremely hard, you are called to love your enemy, but His instruction on how to do that doesn't mean that you have to stay in your situation. It does mean that you have to: do good, bless, and pray for the offender. As we talked about earlier, when Jesus talks about turning the other cheek, the intention is that you are not to seek revenge. If the offense is worthy, do you seek justice? Absolutely, but you pursue justice with love and not hatred. In terms of those who have proven distrustful, you still have your boundaries, but you pray for relational restoration (with them and God, and with you and them WHEN appropriate). You pray for the person to become trustworthy, for them to come to know Christ and be transformed by Him.
Luke 17:4 says, "And if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him." It is crucial to know two things here. First, forgiveness doesn't mean forgetfulness. Forgetting the evil done would not allow proper boundaries to be established. Forgiveness does mean releasing the person from what you're due because of their actions. Again, this DOES NOT MEAN that there shouldn't be consequences. Instead, it means that the consequences are based on what the offense deserves, not the revenge you want. Here is an example: My friend broke trust and offended me. I had to get to a point where I needed to release Him from my right to have Him apologize and "pay for how he hurt me." My forgiveness says, "The pain of what I'm due, I will endure, and release you from," BUT our relationship still wasn't the same and took years to heal because of the consequences of his actions. I didn't begrudgingly distrust him, thinking, "I'm not giving you my trust, you jerk." I did think, "Your actions have broken the trust, and so when you ask this or that of me, I can't interact with you in the same way because what you've brought on yourself."
Also, the word "repent" means to "change one's way of life." In this verse, it isn't clear if the "seven times a day" is the same offense repeated, but because of what repent means, I would suggest it isn't. In other words, if someone is hurting you with the same offense over and over, they are not repenting, even if they are saying, "I'm sorry." "I repent" should be accompanied by some action that moves away from the thing they are repenting of. In that case, forgiveness is to be offered, but again, that doesn't necessarily mean there aren't consequences.
Quick Summary Of Forgiveness And "Turn The Other Cheek":
-Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetfulness, but it also doesn't mean you hold it over their head as a weapon.
-Forgiveness does mean releasing the person from what you are due.
-Forgiveness doesn't mean that the person's actions don't have repercussions.
-Forgiveness is giving up your right to revenge/ repayment.
-Forgiveness is not an elimination of the natural and proper consequences of someone's actions.
-Forgiveness treats the consequences with love, not vengeance.
-Forgiveness is healing for YOU.
How Can I Do This When I've Been Hurt So Bad?
First, know that forgiveness is both a moment and a process. The moment is the decision (not based on feelings) in which you decide to forgive. But that is not the end of it. Your decision is also a process. It may take years to fully embrace the forgiveness you've committed to. In your processes, seek God and know where your strength fails His does not.
Second, it's not easy. I don't know your story, but I'm so sorry this happened to you, and God completely understands your pain… and is with you. He suffers with you. He is not a distant God who theoretically "knows" your pain. He is a God who has fully experienced your pain (times a million). The path to establishing healthy boundaries, of knowing when to get out, of forgiving and loving is difficult, but God calls you to them because He wants to bring healing to you. I as I give these last two tips, I pray they will help in your healing process.
KNOW WHO THE ENEMY IS
Ephesian 6:12 says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." The devil is at work, scheming to destroy people and turn them away from the hope of Christ. I know this may be tough to read because, depending on your situation, you may want 'that person to burn in hell, but they are not the primary enemy. The reason why you were hurt was a ploy of the devil, and he's attempting to use your pain to drive you away from healing and a deeper understanding of God's love. As you process your response to those who have hurt you, keep in mind that God wants the best for you, and His mandates will lead to healing. The devil's hatred will lead to snares of darkness. God can use your story for good, and knowing who this fight is against can keep you from allowing a foothold for evil.
KNOW WE WERE HIS ENEMIES
Love your enemy. Forgive that person. No way! I can't! In my life, the mandates don't work with my own reasoning and strength. It is only when I remember that my sins nailed Jesus-God himself, innocent and full of love-to the cross, that I gain the strength I need to be obedient to His commands. I was His enemy, and He offered me love and forgiveness so I can look at my enemy and, with His strength, do the same.
So, Where Does This Leave Us?
There is still a lot of grey. Each story is unique and needs to be handled with prayer, advice, and a loving community, but I'll leave you with this.
1 Corinthians 1:25, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
May you "Turn the other cheek" and respond in love to those who have hurt you, not with worldly wisdom, but with Godly wisdom, and may you know the Good Shepherd loves you.
For further reading:
 Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 494). New York: United Bible Societies.