Cheek for Cheek

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.” Luke 6:27-29 (ESV) 

turn_the_other_cheek

Oh, if only Jesus stopped at “pray for those who abuse you.” That would have worked for me. Easy to interpret. Not necessarily easy to implement, but at least doable to some degree on the horizon.

When a boss abuses his authority by harassing, demeaning, overly controlling, and taking credit for the work of his subordinates, he certainly can be classified as an “enemy.” His hatred is evident in his actions against his employees.

In this context, how should the target of a supervisor’s abuse “love” him, “do good” to him, and “bless” him? I would suggest Jesus is giving examples of the principle Paul stated elsewhere that we are not to “repay…evil for evil.”

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. [Romans 12:17 (ESV)]

Rather than strike the abuser back in like manner – “strike on the cheek” – we are to actually return “good” for the evil they perpetrate. It gets more tricky at this point. If it just meant we are to go about our business and continue to be beat up by the boss, taking it on the cheek, it would be a simple, ethical, decision-making process. However, this does not jibe with the rest of scripture.

Passages such as Matthew 18, that call the Christian to a confrontational response to sin, would suggest that turning the cheek is not meant as pacifistic. Therefore, I would suggest Jesus is calling his people to not respond in kind. We do not respond abusively to the abuser. We do not slap them back on their cheek metaphorically or otherwise. We respond in love as the beginning of our passage states.

But, love is not mamby-pamby. Love involves looking out for the other’s good. In this context, it is calling the toxic boss to repentance. What is “good” for him is that he turn from his sin and seek forgiveness.

Bringing a toxic boss to repentance normally takes accountability, not a sweet talking to.

His self-interest either needs to be appealed to (It will go better for you if you stop harassing your subordinates), needs to be threatened with consequences by someone in authority, or he needs to be fired. As abusers are not known for considering the feelings of others[1] appealing to their compassionate side will not work. They do not have one of those sides.

Make no mistake, this is love bringing them to account. God brings judgment and condemnation on those who oppress others. This was on the list of top reasons for Israel and Judah being sent into exile by Yahweh [Amos 4:1]. For the abusive boss to come to repentance, he will need the loving actions of the oppressed, and those who will stand with them, to bring them to accountability.

But, again it is not fighting fire with fire, cheek for cheek. It is lovingly seeking out ways to bring them under accountability.

[1] Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (Berkley Books, 2002), 64.

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