Have you ever considered this verse of Holy Scripture and how it might apply to your own life: "Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Matthew 5:39). This is the shortest and clearest teaching in the Bible on the subject of humility. I just read a great story about that very thing happening and what resulted:
The evil demons fear nothing so much as a humble man fulfilling the Lord's commandments. There was a rich nobleman in Alexandria who had a young daughter into whom an evil spirit had entered, and the daughter had gone insane. Someone told the despairing father that none could heal his daughter except the monks who lived in the wilderness and came to Alexandria from time to time to sell baskets, their handiwork; but none of the monks would enter the rich nobleman's house if he told them why he was inviting them. It would be better for him to purchase baskets from the monks, then ask them to come to his house for payment. Then, when they entered the house, he could implore them to pray to God for all the members of the household, and thus obtain God's help to cure the maiden.
The father obeyed and went to the marketplace on a certain day and met one of St. Macarius' disciples as he was selling baskets. The man agreed to buy the baskets, and invited the monk to his home to pay him. When the monk entered the home, the possessed daughter leaped at the monk and vigorously struck him on one cheek with her hand. The monk silently turned the other cheek. The evil spirit cried out in anguish and departed from the girl, and she became completely calm and rational. When the monk returned to the wilderness, he told the elders what had happened and they all glorified God, that He had given so much power to those who fulfill His commandments. (The Prologue from Ochrid, November 18th)
In all honesty not many people are being slapped on their right cheek these days, in fact, I don’t think I have been slapped on my right cheek in any recent memory (please don’t get any ideas!). With that in mind, it can be an easy thing for us to say: “If anyone ever does slap me on the right cheek, I will certainly give him my left cheek to slap.” There is even a temptation (for those of us who have our spiritual growth check list going) to check off that verse as being accomplished in our lives.
Obviously, when it comes to the issue of humility, it goes so much further than simply being slapped on the right cheek. If we take a moment to reflect on this, we may find we have plenty of opportunities in our daily lives to apply the actual intent of that verse. I only have to consider my own reaction the last time some driver cut me off in traffic or perhaps jumped in front of me in the grocery check-out line. Our obedience to the intent of that verse certainly doesn't need have to take place in our outward actions, but it can be what takes place in our minds and hearts. I don’t have to shake an angry fist at the driver who just cut me off to have failed in the area of humility. We can take this even further when we consider our reaction when we hear that someone has slandered us with some lie. What are our thoughts toward them and how do we respond?
Elder Thaddeus gives some great instruction on this issue in the book, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives. He goes so far as to say that when we have bad thoughts toward someone, it will impact them in a very negative way. Not only that, but those very thoughts will greatly impact us and everyone around us as well:
“Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility. If our thoughts are kind, peaceful, and quiet, turned only toward good, then we also influence ourselves and radiate peace all around us – in our family, in the whole country everywhere... However, when we breed negative thoughts it is a great evil. When there is evil in us, we radiate it among our family members and wherever we go.” (Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, page 63)
Turning the other cheek has so many applications to be found in our daily lives and our daily interactions with other people. At times it seems like it is not an easy thing to obey the Lord...it is much more pleasurable to react and payback someone even if it is just in our minds. God's ways are often not our ways...but His ways are always the best ways for us to live.
May our Lord help us to "turn the other cheek" in everything that comes our way, learning to love and pray for those who “slap our cheek” in some way. God may choose to use other people (cutting us off in traffic or at the grocery store or slandering us) to help us grow spiritually. Like an old John Wayne movie in which he just slapped someone that needed a wakeup call in the midst of a battle, may our response be: “Thanks, I needed that!” for we too are in the middle of a spiritual battle each and every day.
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