Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away (Matthew, 5: 38-42).
The prejudices of the world with respect to what is commonly called ‘a point of honour’ produces the kind of somber susceptibility which is born of pride and the glorification of ones own personality, which in turn leads mankind to return an injury or offence with another. This is taken as justice, by those whose moral sense is still embedded in worldly passions. This was why the law of Moses prescribed an ‘eye for an eye’ and a ‘tooth for a tooth’, in accordance with the epoch in which Moses lived. When Christ came, He said: ‘Return goodness for evil,’ and added: ‘Do not resist the evil that they wish to do to you, if someone shall smite thee on thy cheek, present him the other also, To the proud this teaching seems cowardly because they do not understand that it takes more courage to support an insult than it does to take vengeance. This is always due to the fact that their vision does not go beyond the present.
Should we then take this precept at its face value? No, no more than the other, which tells us to pluck out our eye when it is the cause of offence. If we were to take these teachings to their final consequences, it would mean the condemnation of all restraint, even legal restraint, so leaving an open field for those who are evil by absolving them from any kind of fear. If no one were to check their acts of aggression then very quickly the good would also become their victims. The very instinct of self-preservation, being one of the laws of Nature, prevents anyone from offering themselves for assassination. By enunciating that maxim, Jesus did not mean that self-defence is forbidden, but rather that He condemned vengeance. Telling us to offer the other cheek when one has been injured, is merely another way of saying we must not repay evil with evil. Mankind should humbly accept everything that serves as a means of weakening his pride. There is greater glory in receiving an offence, than in being the offender; of patiently suffering injustice, than practising it; in being deceived, than being the deceiver; to be ruined rather than be the one who causes the ruin. It is also the condemnation of all duelling, which in actual fact is nothing more than the manifestation of pride.
Only faith in the future life and the justice of God, who never allows evil to go unpunished, can give a person the necessary strength to patiently support the blows dealt to either their interests or their self-respect. This is why we are constantly repeating how necessary it is to look to the future; and the more we are able to raise up our thoughts above this material life, the less we shall be hurt by the things of this world.
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