Friday, December 18, 2009


The abundance of the Bible is such that no matter how well I think I know a passage, it is always possible for me to be surprised by an insight someone else has gleaned from it. That was the case earlier this week when I was thumbing through some materials, looking for an approach to January’s lesson on the Creation.

What I found had nothing to do with the topic I was considering, but instead was an interpretation of a well-known saying of Jesus. And it floored me.

The passage is Matthew 6:39-40, one of the six Antitheses that Jesus shares just after the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. We all know it well: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other cheek to him also.”

I have always viewed that passage, as I think most people do, as the ultimate call to nonviolence, as an injunction against the temptation to fight back and lower oneself to the level of one’s attackers. However admirable the sentiment, the problem with it as a piece of practical advice is that it seems to set us up for pain and suffering.

Well, here’s how Norman L. Bouchard, writing in the November 2009 issue of Science of Mind magazine, reinterpreted the passage:

“While I gave my presentation on Matthew’s Gospel, I asked the audience to place
a hand on their cheeks and turn them toward the right. When you do this, you no
longer have the same point of view. You not only see a different direction, but
you realize that you are asked to move in a new direction. The text did not say
go back and get the other one slapped, but, rather, head in a new direction.
This put us on a path of forgiveness and freedom.”

This simple, logical and yet stunning reading of this famous saying turns it into advice that we all can use, even those of us who otherwise would not be able to resist the urge to fight back. Don’t set yourself up for more pain, just turn in a new direction and get on with your life.

I love it. And that, in the form of a brief example, is the beauty of the Bible.

No comments:

Post a Comment