For clarity, I’m not attempting to exegete Matthew 5:39. In fact, this is about a conversation I had with my mom. (Quick aside – and dangerously close to a cliché – but I’m gladdened to report that both my parents have become incredibly, almost supernaturally, smarter in the past couple years.) *grin* I was sharing with my mom about a difficult situation I’m in the middle of and she told me a story. Four years ago she was doing a very intensive personal growth seminar. One of the exercises involved practicing some martial arts moves. As she relayed her thoughts about responding to the situation I was in, she said, “What if turning the other cheek is actually an Aikido move?”
First off, I’d like to acknowledge that as one of the greatest quotes I’ve ever heard from my mom. Second, something in my masculine heart screamed “YES!” at the idea. Aikido is a form of martial arts and the word aikido is generally translated as “the way of harmonious spirit.” There are many different forms of martial arts. Many of them practice actions which oppose an attacker directly. Blocking, punching faster, meeting a fist with an elbow, etc. Others, like Judo, focus on using an attacker’s momentum against them. The guiding principle of Aikido is unique in that avoiding the energy of the attack is balanced with not inflicting further harm upon the attacker.
For example, a Karate block might be designed to not only stop an incoming punch but also disable the attacking arm. The corresponding Judo move would try to use the energy of the incoming punch to throw the attacker to the ground. But in Aikido, the move would usually allow the energy of the attack to simply pass by. Not blocked, not redirected, just avoided. What is fascinating about this idea to me is that it feels so very like the Jesus I read about. When confronted with an attack, sometimes He met it head on by quoting scripture or telling a relevant story. Other times He simply walked away when it wasn’t time to fight. And I love the idea that perhaps in this passage, that’s what He’s trying to tell us.
As I prayed through my particular situation and asked for guidance, I felt strongly that the conversation with my mom had come up on purpose. Difficult situations have the potential to bring out the worst in people. I find that I normally default to continuing confrontation, aggressively pursuing the issue to resolution. Then I end up thinking about what I need to say in one of those sleepless nights. The kind where I mentally preach an awesome 2 a.m. sermon that convicts everyone else in the situation of their errors and ends happily for me with their repentance. But as I prayed into the situation, I began to feel God distancing me from the emotions of the conflict. Making it clear to me that my role in this wasn’t to be confrontational. Allowing me to step back and see that no one in the conflict was my enemy. At one point, addressing a few of my lingering concerns, I felt like God brought up the question, “How many of these last few areas that you feel strongly about are just you needing to be right?” And He was dead on. The last few things my flesh wanted to argue about were the places I felt wronged or misunderstood. I knew that I didn’t want to do further damage to anyone involved. But I needed this idea to help me step aside and let the conflict pass me by.
The whole process took a few painful weeks, but looking back, it feels incredibly valuable. Much like spiritual warfare, I don’t plan to pray that conflict won’t happen to me, I pray that my readiness and awareness will increase. That I will be able to recognize more quickly when attacks or negativity can simply be avoided, forgotten, let go. When they don’t even need to be addressed. The truth is that Jesus didn’t meet every attack head on – and I don’t need to either. Sometimes there are situations where someone isn’t even aware that they are attacking us. And we have the opportunity to simply turn the other cheek and allow the energy of the attack to pass us by unaffected without doing any further damage to the relationship.