2/24/13 Rev. David McArthur
Non-Violence and the Other Cheek
Jesus taught if you are struck on the right cheek, “turn the other cheek”. In the context of the Jewish culture, to be hit on the right cheek meant the one who hit you used either his “unclean” left hand or the back of his right hand. Either was a great dishonor to you. But when you turn the other cheek to be hit, the person can’t hit you in either way. It takes back power where it had been lost. It makes you equal to the other person.
This teaching does not say that suffering abuse is spiritual. Rather, it is the non-violent response which opens us to the flow of divine energy and power, to love. Use the power of love to bring an equal connection with your “enemy”. But how? When someone is in your face, love isn’t your first response.
The civil rights activists in Selma, Alabama heard of the brutal treatment colleagues were suffering at the hands of the authorities. You can imagine the level of anger they felt—a natural response. But their leaders understood the teaching of non-violence. They asked for a call-and-response song that acknowledged love. They sang out “We love Martin Luther King” and the crowd answered, “Certainly, certainly!” The leaders sang out another civil rights leader’s name, and another. Each time the crowd sang back, “Certainly, certainly!” Then the song leaders sang out the name of the sheriff who, with his troopers, had them surrounded, threatening violence. “We love the Sheriff.” The crowd faltered at first, but soon sang, “Certainly, certainly!” They got it. Love has the power to change things! The sheriff said years later that in that moment he realized he had been wrong.
Love gives understanding and compassion, but it also shows us the oppressor, the victim, the self righteous one inside each of us. Healing that is where the power truly is. How do we do it? Recall the Prayer of St. Francis. “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” You have the power, because you are the love to do that! And if music does it, sing, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me!”