Thursday, January 01, 2015

Turning the other cheek

“If anyone slaps you…”: For a person to be slapped on the right cheek apparently assumes being hit by a person facing them with a backhanded slap (or a left-handed person striking a person with an open hand). The backhanded slap is a gross insult to the dignity of a person. This principle of the later rabbinic rulings probably reflects the social customs at work in first-century Galilee, and here is the principle: “Everything is in accord with ones station [status].” This means, “if he smacked him, he pays him two hundred zuz.” But, the text continues, “if it is with the back of the hand, he pays him four hundred zuz (Mishnah Bab Qamma 8:6, italics added [by McKnight]). Instead of striking back, which would be both justifiable and equal retribution and a part of Moses’ “no mercy” law, Jesus creates an almost laughable scene of grace: “turn to them the other cheek also.” This is how Jesus did respond (Matt 26:67).— Sermon on the Mount, page 127

<idle musing>
So it is even more demeaning and radical a call than we thought! But that makes sense, doesn't it? God demeans himself to become man; why can't we demean ourselves to become a true servant?
</idle musing>

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