“But I tell you, ‘Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’”
Culturally, hitting someone with the back of a hand was meant to be an insult, a humiliation used to degrade. It was never administered to an equal, but to someone inferior. Masters backhanded slaves, and Romans backhanded Jews.
The people who heard this were used to being degraded in this way. He is saying to them, “Refuse to receive this treatment anymore, if they backhand you, turn the other cheek.” By turning the other cheek, the servant makes it impossible for the master to use the backhand again. The left cheek offers a target for a blow from the right fist, but in this culture, only equals fight with fists. The last thing the master wishes to do is establish the underling’s equality. So turning the left cheek renders the master incapable of asserting his dominance over the servant. Notice, this is not a “hit me again” invitation, but a reminder that the two men are equals.
What does it mean for something to be reciprocal?
Reciprocal: Sharing equally, mutual, to give and take in the same manner. In other words, to level the playing field, so we are all equal before God. We mutually share in the salvation of Jesus Christ, and love one another without favoritism. All have God’s love and salvation available to them.
And how do we define respect?
Respect: Respect is regard for the existence, ideas and opinions of other people. To respect someone is to treat them with dignity and honor. Originating from the Latin word “respectus” that means to look at, to regard. There are degrees of respect: to notice or consider, to esteem, and the highest level of respect is to honor. Then there is a level of respect reserved for the Lord God only, and that respect is shown in the act of worship.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, and one who takes his teachings seriously, we must learn to show respect for others regardless of their economic status, their education, their race, their origins, or any other reason that might separate us.