Those who retaliate against the weak and bow before the strong are the epitome of humility and gutless inclinations. However, those who resist the urge to strike back immediately, knowing their own strength, are individuals of faith and hope, whether it be rooted in a religious beliefs or in a more secular self-confidence.
Amid contemporary gospel interpretations, there are those who confess their temptation to resist turning the other cheek and instead retaliate with a slap. Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, this phrase has been consistently portrayed as an act of submission. It was ingrained in us by priests who believed that they, or those in positions of hierarchical authority, were the ones deserving blows. Thus, they sought to instil the notion of respecting authority and yielding to power, particularly when they themselves were the ones exerting such authority.
However, the essence of this parable holds a different meaning. Turning the other cheek, in certain respects, is an assertion of confidence, rather than an act of submission. It carries a hint of audacity, although we don’t dare to apply such a label cannot to Jesus Christ. If we indulge in a comparison, Jesus Christ exhibits a behavior akin to that of Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) during his legendary bout with Foreman, goading him to strike harder, knowing full well it would not harm him (“Is that all you got, George? They told me you could hit!”). At most, we can attribute it to self-control, rather than emotional or violent reactions. In fact, it is even more accurate to view this non-reaction to violence as a prudent approach to avoid escalating cycles of aggression. However, it is crucial to note that this is not an act of humility or submission by any means.
Paradoxically, it is far humbler – and ultimately, ineffective, and submissive – to impulsively react and stoop down to the level of the violent and oppressive. Those who possess a noble spirit and inner strength know how to exercise restraint, countering mindless violence with the power of endurance (à la Muhammad Ali). They subsequently assert their rights, bolstered by unwavering confidence, much like a climactic final round. Let us label this conviction as faith and hope, particularly for those who claim to embrace Christianity.