Matthew 5:39 | 1 Peter 2:23 | Deuteronomy 32:35 | Romans 12:20-21 

Don’t get mad, get even tempered.

Matthew 5:39, 7:3 | 1 Peter 2:23 | Deuteronomy 32:35 | Romans 12:20-21 

Some people are just mean, aren’t they? Maybe. Or maybe everyone gets a little mean sometimes.

Either way, Jesus gives us some difficult instruction for dealing with meanness…

But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. 

(Matthew 5:39 NLT)

“So, Jesus, if I’m hearing you right… You’re saying I should respond to someone who slaps me–on the face–by offering them more of my face to slap?”

Basically, yes. That’s what he is saying…sort of. (More on the ‘sort of’ later…)

If you think about it, Jesus’s suggestion is pretty hardcore. Someone slaps you on the face, and instead of getting all riled up, you look them in the eye and slowly turn to offer them the other cheek as well. How tough is that!?

(It was a rhetorical question, but…) That’s Jesus tough.

He did not retaliate when he was insulted,

    nor threaten revenge when he suffered.

He left his case in the hands of God,

    who always judges fairly.

(1 Peter 2:23 NLT)

Jesus left his case in his father’s hands because he trusted him to judge fairly. And that makes sense, because God says it is his job to repay people for what they do.

I will take revenge; I will pay them back.

    In due time their feet will slip.

Their day of disaster will arrive,

    and their destiny will overtake them.’

(Deuteronomy 32:35 NLT)

The apostle Paul reminds us specifically how to respond to our enemies:

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.

    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap

    burning coals of shame on their heads.”

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

(Romans 12:20-21 NLT)

How does ‘burning coals of shame on the heads of your enemies’ sound? Pretty good. But here’s where the ‘sort of’ comes in… 

First, Jesus often spoke figuratively, describing vivid scenarios that would resonate with people for ages. 

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

(Matthew 7:3 NLT) 

‘Someone slapping you on the face’ in Matthew 5:39 is a vivid, figurative way of saying someone insulted you. In this context, ‘turning the other cheek’ means getting over petty insults by not retaliating–not volunteering for more physical abuse. 

Second, don’t confuse self-defense with revenge. There is a huge difference between ‘a slap in the face’ that hurts your pride and a physical assault that hurts your person, especially repeated abuse. 

Dear friend, if someone is literally slapping your face or otherwise abusing you, please defend yourself and free yourself from the abuse. Ask the Lord to help you as you do. 

But don’t retaliate. Let your Father in Heaven do that for you.

Questions for Group Discussion

  • Has the idea of ‘turning the other cheek’ ever seemed weak to you? Does it sound like a doormat move?
  • What is the difference between ‘fighting back’ and revenge? Why is defending yourself okay, while revenge is not?
  • Read Proverbs 25:26. How can you reconcile this with what Jesus says in Matthew 5:29? Can you find other scriptures that deal with fighting evil, self-defense, or protecting yourself?
  • Is there a time to take revenge? If so, what scripture can you find to support it?

Getting Them Back: Application

Does the thought of revenge seem more enticing than you would like? Have you taken revenge more often than you would like to recall? Maybe you have not, but still burned with the desire to get even.

For people considering revenge, the problem is often that they have not thought the situation through to its conclusion. So let’s do that…

  1. Think of something for which you would not mind taking revenge, and write it at the top of a sheet of paper. It could be recent, way in the past, or even fictional.
  2. Below that, write what action you would take as revenge.
  3. Consider the results of that action, and write that on the line below. (Your adversary’s response, etc.)
  4. Continue writing down subsequent results on the lines below until you reach a logical conclusion to the matter. Use as many lines as needed to write what happens next, and then after that, and so on.

Now read what you have written. How did your revenge scenario end?