As the laughing young couple paused in front of my house while their dog, straight out of Paris Hilton’s purse, made a tiny little dog poo on our scraggly grass city lawn; the last thing I was thinking was turn the other cheek..
Watching them through the large picture window in our living room; I waited for the part where they would pull out the plastic bag and pick it up.
But in the hilarity of the story he was telling her, his tie loosened after a long day at the bank and she, blond hair designer jeans tight and pricy summer top with a beauty that wouldn’t be lasting many more years because there was nothing in those blue eyes that showed even a hint of the inner fire that makes real beauty last; in the hilarity of his story---they didn’t pick it up.
Instead, she picked up a leaf to wipe off the dog’s butt. Leaving it all.
Standing there chatting. And laughing. Just having a gay old time. Never noticing the old guy in the Cubs hat, me, standing with his mouth open and hands on his hips. on the other side of the window Simply not believing that they wouldn’t pick it up.
But they did not. And by the time I put some shoes on to tear through my front door, they had turned the corner onto Grace Street and were gone.
Now I was really not thinking about turning the other cheek.
Still fuming; we sat down to dinner, which somehow didn’t taste as good as it usually does.
Till it hit me a few minutes later. They were out front of the house again. I couldn’t see them. Our dining room doesn’t face the front.
I just knew.
So I ran out there, shoeless and crazed and there they were. Mr and Ms Starbucks with little Fifi. Their self indulgent little bubble popped when they saw the man on the porch looking as if he was about to kill, roar at them:
“Are you gonna pick it up this time?”
I was certain as soon as I yelled, and lets just say it was a full throated yell, that neither of them had ever been addressed like that in their lives.
Banker boy got a look on his face of pure terror. Big eyes. Speechless. No one talks like that at the bank or corporate. She at least attempted indignation.
“Excuse me?” she snapped as if her personal shopper had somehow brought the wrong sized stilettos.
I said, upping the decibel level one more notch, “Your dog crapped on my lawn. You didn’t pick it up. Are you gonna pick it up now?”
And she folded. “Well., I’m sorry. Ok. I’m sorry. What do you want me to do? What do you want me to say?”
“Where do you two live?” I snarled.
“Down there”---they pointed. Now both scared.
“What’s your address?” I asked.
“Why would we tell you that,” she blurted out. He stepped back saying nothing. The empty eyed woman was the tough one of the pair.
“Just in case I ever want to bring my dog over to crap where you live.”
“Ok, OK, she said, now bending down and frantically looking for the tiny deposit, while I stood on my porch.”
“Sir, could you just go inside. You’re making me nervous watching me. I can’t find it. I don’t know what to do.” She pleaded.
So I stood there for at least another 30 seconds while she looked at what was undoubldably now on the bottom of her shoe. I said nothing. Did nothing. Just watched.
“Sir, I don’t know what to do. And you are scaring me. Can’t you go inside your house?”
I let her fumble for a few more seconds and then said,
“How about this. How about you promise to always clean up after your dog. Always. No matter what?”
This got investment banker boy nodding his head yes as it was being pulled by an invisible string.
She said, defeated, “Yeah, OK.”
And I motioned them to move on with my head. . .watching them till they were out of site. My best Clint Eastwood stare.
And that’s when I remembered a sermon I heard once about what it means to turn the other cheek.
See, I had always thought of turning the other cheek as being passive. A really nice theory. But if you were to hurt somebody I loved. . .hell, it your dog would even hurt a lawn I loved. . .then goodbye theory, hello fistfight.
Once when I was REALLY immature, and young---as opposed to now when I am just immature, I even took after a guy at an outdoor music place called Ravinia for blowing his cigar smoke too close to my blanket. And blows were exchanged.
Of course the next weekend we had a party at our house and every guy, and most of the women there showed up smoking cigars.
But, to return to the point, it turns out I had this turn the other cheek thing wrong. Totally wrong.
A theologian by the name of Walter Wink (and if he is not on your bookshelf at the moment, Wikipedia “turn the other cheek”) and you will find Wink’s figurative interpretation of “turn the other cheek”.
It goes like this.
And this is hard to see, so go slow: Or physically act it out. It took me 3 times to visualize this.
In Matthew 5 verse 39 it says; “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek turn the other also.”
Imagine standing across in front of a person and winding up to smack them in the face. Your right hand would smack their left cheek
Now if they turned the other cheek. . . . the only way you could hit them again would be with the back of your hand.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
In Jesus’ day, writes Wink, a backhanded slap was only used as an insult. It was used on a person of lesser status, like a slave, to bring them back in line. It was not used on an equal.
And the left hand wasn’t used at all. The left hand was for uh. . .unclean tasks.
Jesus is talking to people who are used to being backhanded. And what he is telling them is not to be passive.
What he is telling them is: put yourself in a position where you can’t be hit. Offer them the cheek that they CAN'T hit.
What he is telling them is totally different than what most of us think when we read he Bible as an instruction manual.
Outthink the oppressor. That’s what it means. It does not mean lay down and roll over.
The other choice, both then and now, is to return violence with violence.
Take your dog to the yuppie’s house and let your dog leave a present on their lawn that they won’t soon forget!
Perhaps the greatest proponent of non-violent resistance of our time was Dr. King. He took it to war against the systems of racism that color every corner of our world. Not with guns. But by ACTIVELY turning the other cheek.
In some very powerful ways that are now in history books.
Turning the other cheek is not passive.
Imagine a country puts itself in a position where it can’t be hit. From within or from the outside.
Not with bigger badder guns, or whipping up fear.
But by turning the other cheek.
What would happen next?