“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:38-41)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:38-41)

Where does 'eye for an eye' come from?

Here Jesus is referencing a misinterpreted teaching that has been referenced in at least three verses of the Bible:
But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21:24)
Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. (Lev. 24:20)
Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deut. 19:21)
These instructions from Moses are said to reflect a crucial law that has resulted in so many acts of violence over the centuries, including stonings and other brutal acts.

Were they necessary to produce the intended result of having a civilized society? One might argue they were not necessary to the extent imagined, and created more acts if violence among uncivil people.

But there is also the question of whether Moses spoke these words as has been translated above - insinuating that humans should commit acts of violence in an eye-for-eye method as punishment against perpetrators. 

The question that Jesus' statement bears is whether Jesus is clarifying the meaning of Moses' instructions, or whether he is conflicting with them. If he is defining what Moses intended to teach, then we can know that Moses' instructions were either misinterpreted, mistranslated or both.

Biblical scholars have shown clearly that before being translated into Latin by appointed scribes of the early Roman church, much of these texts were written in the Eighth Century BC - many centuries after Moses. Did those texts accurately describe Moses' teachings in this regard?

Is there a conflict between these teachings of Moses and Jesus?

One might conclude that the primary difference between Moses' and Jesus' teachings is the time, circumstance, and society. Certainly, Moses was trying to establish the rule of law among a tribe of people trying to survive in the harsh conditions of the desert. As a result of these conditions, Mosaic law had to be stern in order to keep the tribe safe.

That is a significant difference between the time, circumstance and society that Jesus was teaching to. In Jesus' time, Judea had already established the rule of law. The society of Jesus' time was organized and there were legal institutions in place to deal with criminals. Thus there was no need for people of the society to take the law into their own hands.

In addition, we can establish that the writing and transliteration of Moses' teachings since the 8th Century B.C. could have serious inaccuracies. Before being written down, these were oral traditions passed on from teacher to student and family to family for at least a thousand years. 

When they were finally written down, these oral teachings were combined together and adapted by scribes - and mixed with modern commentary to establish an interpreted version of the texts.

This is why Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said..." If Jesus accepted that God told Moses this, then Jesus - God's representative - would have said, "Moses said" or "God said..." instead of “You have heard that it was said..."

We find that Jesus, like Moses, taught his followers to be merciful and forgiving:
"Blessed are the merciful..." (Matt. 5:7)
Why would Moses take such a hard line then? Yes, there is the necessity of establishing a system of justice to policy a society. But did those after Moses take the law far beyond its intended purpose?

What about 'as you sow so shall you reap'?

The reality is that the physical world was designed by the Supreme Being to enable consequence learning. This system - also termed "as you sow, so shall you reap" - is also part of Jesus' teachings, as he said to someone he healed:
"See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (John 5:14)
But it is not as though Jesus is teaching that we should take it upon ourselves to make sure that others sow what they reap. Certainly - as evidenced from Moses' teachings - there should be laws that help protect people from those who hurt others. But it is not as if we need to take it upon ourselves to accomplish an "eye for an eye" reality. This is already part of the design of the physical world.

The physical world, along with most of our legal systems, is designed to do this automatically, evidenced by Jesus' statement in John 5:14. We can understand from this that "eye for an eye" is not to be construed violently by those who seek authority over others.

Jesus was advising his followers about how to conduct their personal lives. His message was based upon a personal approach of humility towards others.

Why does Jesus advise to turn the other cheek?

In this statement, we find that Jesus was not teaching others to take the law into their own hands and serve people up with the "eye for an eye" - as wrongly interpreted by some. By the design of the Supreme Being, everyone will automatically face the consequences of their actions - without our involvement.

Rather, Jesus is instructing his followers to approach others with humility.

Humility does not mean pretending to be humble. True humility means recognizing that we are all God's children and God owns everything — even us. Everything comes from God. This means any wealth, reputation or position within society. Anything we have is not ours but rightfully His. We are in effect borrowing whatever we have within our possession.

Why? Because we will ultimately lose whatever we have. We have no permanent grip on the things of the physical world. Our bodies get old and die, and we leave everything behind at the time of death.

Since we own nothing, and everything we have is given to us on loan from God, there is no gain by struggling to be superior to others. There is no gain by demanding that we have a right to something. There is no gain by seeking more than we need to keep our physical body alive.

A realistic view of our possessions or knowledge would be to give thanks for anything we have been given to use, and if our neighbor or brother requires something we currently possess, be willing to share. This is Jesus' point.

This was often illustrated by Jesus. He was extremely humble about his position in relation to the Supreme Being, saying things like:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)
Often we see those who adopt the view of “turning the other cheek” as something to be proud of. That acting with humility makes a person better than others. This is hypocritical.

To be proud to be humble is simply a contradiction.

Is this about acting humbly?

Acting humble is not the same as feeling humble. In fact, feeling one's true position as God’s humble servant sometimes requires not acting humbly.

While Jesus did not try to act humble, he was humble in that he depended on the Supreme Being as the Source of his teachings. This is true humility.

Yet when Jesus went into the temple and found peddlers on the grounds of God’s House, he angrily turned over their tables. This does not appear to be an act of humility, but it is because Jesus saw that these peddlers were offending his Beloved God by turning God's place of worship into a marketplace.

This was an illustration of Jesus' intent to serve and please God: An act of true humility: Service done on behalf of God. Jesus confirmed this when he said:
"‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” (Luke 4:8)
and also when he said:
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:50)