I am not sure anyone can read this bit of scripture as purely as Jesus intended it. We come to all scripture with a bias – as was said in the seminary, “we read though a ‘lens.’ I guess they meant a colored lens, rather than a magnifying lens as they were using this allusion to point out bias – and they should have known about bias. The profs had lots of them, but that is another story.
So I will tell you up front my bias: I do not believe Jesus expects you to be victimized by abusers and criminals. You are a precious creation of God and when someone does wrong to you without warrant they are violating the image of God in which you are made.
What I do believe Jesus is talking about is proportionality – basically don’t go “up side the head” of someone with a baseball bat because they insult you. The Old Testament scripture (Leviticus 24:19-21) plays this out. Justice is to be meted out kind for kind in proportion to the offence. God calls us not to do more than is proportionate as this would be revenge and that is the purview of God. This also causes our neighbor to seek revenge on us. It then becomes a never ending down-spiral leading to hate and more misery than the original offense.
Much trouble in life can be avoided if you just let some things go and not respond to them. This seems to be the underlying message here. Not everything has to be a fight and even in a fight you do not have to hate your enemy but love them enough to act proportionally and pray for their well-being. Is this not how God deals with us?
God had/has every right to “go upside” our heads with a cosmic baseball bat but because of His love he sent Jesus to take our punishment. Jesus took “the bat” for us so that we could be reconciled to God.
Help us to turn the other cheek, not to let slights escalate into fights. Help us to love all around us, even our enemies and in times of conflict with them wish them well and do them the least harm. Likewise, we pray that our enemies will respond to love shown and turn to your in all things. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.