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 evil. whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn awayMathew 5:38-40
We normally associate these verses with pacisfism but there is a little more to it than that. These verses were spoken in a culture where honor and shame were culturally significant. A slap in the face was viewed as degrading and was an effort to lower someone's status as they were publically shamed. What does this have to do with the right cheek and then the left cheek? For an answer we have to turn to the Mishnah, which is a collection of legal regulations from the 3rd century AD rabbinic Judaism. In the Mishnah penalties and compensation are prescribed that are due as punishments for various infractions. There was a difference in slapping someone with the back of the hand versus the palm of the hand. When Jesus says, "If someone strikes you on the right cheek," he is talking about a slap with the back of the hand as most people are right handed. The Mishnah lays out compensation for those who experienced such a shaming action: a slap with the palm of the hand carried a penalty twice as much as a slap with the back of the hand. Why should it contain a higher fine? Because to be struck on the right cheek, with the back of the hand, would be more degrading and shameful than to be struck on the left cheek with the palm of the hand. In effect, Jesus is saying, if someone degrades or shames you greatly by a backhanded slap on the right cheek, turn your left cheek to him and see if he's willing to say you are closer to his equal than the initial slap indicated. Of course, this would also inflict more compensatory damage to the one doing the slapping. This verse does not say as much about pacifism as it has to say about the culture of honor and shame that they lived in. They heard the words totally different than we hear them today.Matt Dabbs, "What Does it Mean to Turn the Other Cheek"