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There are all sorts of Scripture passages that are pulled completely out of context and/or misinterpreted. The real meaning is often buried under the pretense of some passing fad, contorted to fit the flavor-of-the-month theology or a societal fad. One, of course, that immediately jumps to mind is the favorite line from Scripture for wimps, cowards and theological lightweights: “Do not judge.”
It doesn’t mean what you think it means, liberals.
But one that has gone overlooked (but that is very much in the same vein) is the wildly misunderstood “turn the other cheek.” There isn’t a wimpy-Catholic, liberal or conflict-avoidance coward who doesn’t have this right at the top of his list of quotes to use to virtue signal and excuse his lack of zeal in confronting evil and injustice.
But what does it actually mean? Was the Son of God really telling His followers to just be doormats and not oppose injustice — as many like to claim — to cover their own cowardice? Far from it. In fact, recall that when Our Lord Himself was struck across the face, He didn’t turn the other cheek, but actually confronted the guard who did it (at his trial before the Sanhedrin), saying, “If I speak the truth, then why do you strike Me?”
It is the supreme act of charity to teach someone the truth.
There is one key word in the passage about turning the other cheek that comes from Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. Oftentimes, it is precisely the key word or phrase that gets omitted by those not wishing to embrace the fullness of the truth behind a given passage. In this case, it is what Our Lord says in the immediate run-up. He says, “If someone strikes you across your right cheek, offer them the other.”
It is significant that He says right cheek. Why? Because in the ancient world, and especially among the Jews, the left hand was considered evil, and it was never to be the hand used first in an action. So if you were to be struck across the right side of your face, your right cheek, and the person striking you was to use their right hand in the action, that means they would have to use the back of their hand.
Okay, so far so good. But if you turned back to them, face to face, and then offered them your left cheek, that means they would have to strike you with the open palm of their right hand because, remember, the left hand cannot be used. Why is this important? Because turning the other cheek to the slapper so he would strike you open-palm was actually an act of defiance because striking with an open palm was reserved for social equals, not slaves or subordinates.
If he slapped you again, he would be upgrading your status. To strike in that manner, open-handed, he would be forced to elevate you to a higher-class citizen to exact his revenge. To offer the other cheek would force the hand, so to speak, of the one doing the slapping. It would be an assertion of your equality; it would be an act of defiance. Receiving a backhand meant you were lesser.
Receiving an open palm slap meant you were equals. It was standing for justice, but in a non-violent way. It was a direct confronting of the injustice but done without vengeance. But as we see way too often today from supposed followers of Christ, they are always looking for every way possible to avoid confronting evil and doing justice.
Justice is intimately bound up with charity because charity relates to truth, and Christ is truth. To deny justice, to not step forward and fight injustice, is a sure ticket to Hell. Justice demands that the innocent be protected, that those seeking refuge from evil be made safe. Justice therefore demands that the most innocent — the least safe — be fought for and protected at the cost of even our own lives.
Justice is intimately bound up with charity because charity relates to truth, and Christ is truth.
And who are the most innocent and least safe? Those who have been deprived of the truth of the Catholic faith, willfully disinherited by wicked men who have stolen their inheritance from them. It becomes a condition of salvation, therefore, to confront these wicked men who are depriving others of the means of their eternal salvation.
It is the supreme act of charity to teach someone the truth, and it is the supreme act of justice to confront those who deny them the teachings. To not act justly and charitably to your neighbor is the very definition of being damned: “I was hungry and you did not give Me to eat; thirsty and you did not give Me to drink,” and so forth. “Depart from me accursed into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.”
Satan was damned because of the supreme sin of omission: He would not give God what He was due, which, of course, is worship. It’s not what he did; it’s what he did not do. Given the current climate in the Church, Catholics must stop and ponder: Will they be damned likewise for the sins of omission?
Something to think of as Lent descends on us all. Instead of giving up chocolate, try giving up not doing the right thing.