I've had the blogging equivalent of getting my face wiped with spit on a hanky. My mother (long-time reader, first-time commenter) could keep her silence no longer when I failed to mention Old Testament incidents of turning the other cheek. Well in keeping with my theme I graciously submit to the correction and ask that others add their own examples.
I'll just mention four.
First from the law:
"If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him." (Exodus 23:4)
Note that this comes in the same body of law in which 'eye for eye' is found (Ex 21:24). Eye for eye never precluded loving your enemy.
Second I can think of Esau meeting Jacob in Gen 33. Jacob feared Esau and had every right to fear him! Yet, verse 4:
"But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept."
No wonder Jesus uses these words to describe His own father-like response to sinners (Luke 15:20). This is a paradigmatic example of turning the other cheek. And Genesis itself has set us up for this. Just as Jacob saw Jesus face to face (Gen 32:30) and found blessing, so he found the same grace in Esau's face:
"To see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favourably." (Gen 33:10)
Esau had shown grace to a scumbag just as Jesus had done the night before. Turning the other cheek is not just an honourable human action, it is the very character of the Face-to-Face God.
Third example is David sparing Saul. The whole Saul - David interaction parallels Adam and Christ. The first ruler looks promising but leads the people down into shame and defeat. The world sees Saul on the throne, but God has anointed another king. Those in the know sing about David and follow him even though they respect Saul's outward kingship.
During this overlap of reigns, Saul seeks to kill David and David would have every right to kill Saul. Yet he spares Saul's life twice (1 Sam 24 & 26). David will not bring in his kingdom that way. When Saul realises the grace shown to him he weeps, confesses his own sin and David's righteousness. (see 1 Sam 24:16-22 and 26:21-25). This seems to be a model of how turning the other cheek can shame an enemy into confessing their wickedness.
That's a prominent theme in my fourth example: Proverbs 25:21-22
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. 22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. (Prov 25:21-22)
What an incredible piece of advice. We think retaliation is the best way to show someone God's opposition to their sin ('burning coals' - Ps 11:6; 18:8; 120:4; 140:10!). Actually kindness to enemies - that's what will really reveal the judgement of God.
In the next post I'll think about what turning the other cheek would look like in various practical examples.