I must confess, it felt a bit odd preaching on “turning the other cheek” yesterday without an explicit mention of Walter Wink’s “Third Way” theology. Anyone who knows me or my own theological bent is well aware that Wink has greatly influence my reading of this enigmatic teaching of Jesus and my own personal ethics. However, I took a bit of a different approach yesterday, so I wanted to make mention of Wink’s reading here.
Wink teaches that, when Jesus teaches us to “turn the other cheek,” he is not advocating for mere passivity. He is not advocating that we become a human doormat for all the bullies out there who seek to take advantage of us. He isn’t advocating that we overlook injustice and oppression when we see it. Rather, when understood in its cultural context, we can see that Jesus is calling us to creatively assert our humanity and inherent equality in the face of violent oppression. The same can be said of the companion teachings in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus says to “give your tunic” and “go the second mile.”
Rather than merely summarize Wink’s teaching here, I would encourage folks to read him for themselves. I truly believe that this was one of the most significant contributions he made to global theology and biblical scholarship in his career. I would be interested to hear what you think about this reading. It sure sounds more compelling to me than some of the readings I remember hearing in church growing up.