"Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.Luke 6:29(NASB)
In Luke's gospel, we find the Lord giving a similar message to the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew. However, He delivers this teaching in the low-lands on the plain. Indeed, in this 'Sermon on the Plateau', Jesus is not only speaking to His disciples, but also to the disinterested multitudes and hypocritical Pharisees that only followed Him for physical healing, self-help, or destructive criticism.
Christ's discourse, is a stern message to anyone who would become His disciple, for everyone who would be Christ's disciple must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow the Lord Jesus. Christ's message was not for false followers or for those that only followed Him for selfish motives. It was not a message for those that were simply bothered by the things of the world. Christ's message was a teaching for those who sincerely desired to know and understand the things of God.
We discover four blessings in this passage which can be received by those who are credited with righteousness. "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for great is your reward in heaven." These four blessings stand in stark contrast with the four bitter woes that are the just desserts of those that refuse to accept Christ's offer of salvation. Though believers may face poverty, hunger, weeping, and rejection, Jesus qualifies this - for the poor in spirit who recognise their need of Christ are blessed and will have a part in His kingdom. Likewise, those that hunger after the Lord, weep for their sin, and suffer for righteousness’ sake, will be blessed.
The four woes that follow are for those that want their best life now... at the expense of their eternal salvation. They may be rich in worldly goods, well-fed, famous, and popular, but if they reject Christ's offer of salvation, by grace through faith in Him... they are men most miserable for they are eternally cursed and excluded from His eternal kingdom. "Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets."
In the passage under consideration, the Lord explains that true righteousness is revealed by love - the love of Christ in-filling us and then overflowing into the lives of others, whom we may meet. Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you, we are instructed. Do not retaliate but give generously and treat others in the way that you would want to be treated yourself, were the superlative words of our Saviour - which are so contrary to the ways of the world.
In this verse, Christ taught, "if anyone hits you on the cheek, offer him the other cheek as well; and if anyone takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him, but give him that as well." Retaliation, vengeance, judgement, condemnation, unkindness, and unforgiveness, are too often the way of the world, but Christ taught a totally different set of standards - based on His own godly character.
Though God is a God of justice and must punish all sin, nevertheless He is a God of love and mercy, kindness and compassion, long-suffering and of great goodness, and as His children, we are instructed to display the same godly qualities and merciful attitude that He has shown to each one of us who has been saved by grace through faith in Him.
Let us never forget that mercy leads to mercy and pardon will lead to pardon, while judgement results in judgement and the one that condemns will themselves be condemned - not only in this life but in the one to come.
When Jesus instructed, "whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other cheek also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either," He did not simply say it with His lips... the Lord Jesus lived it throughout His earthly life as an example of how we should live in this crooked and perverse world - for Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death - even death on a Cross. Let us receive Christ's message with all sincerity and truth, deny self, take up our cross, and follow Him.
Heavenly Father, in a world that is becoming more violent and where the love of many has grown stone-cold, it is often a temptation to judge, condemn, and retaliate against those that hurt or harm us - or cause pain to those we love. Give me the grace to live as Christ lived and to love others as He loved. Help me to put this verse into action in my everyday life and to take up my cross and follow You - to Your praise and glory. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.