Luke 6:29

ESV To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.
NIV If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
NASB Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic from him either.
CSB If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don't hold back your shirt either.
NLT If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.
KJV And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.

What does Luke 6:29 mean?

Jesus has exhorted His followers to bless those who curse them and pray for those who abuse them (Luke 6:28). Now, He gives us specific but not comprehensive examples.

A "strike" literally means a hit on the cheek from the back of the hand. Like today, it refers to a general insult: something we often call a "slap in the face." If someone abuses us such that we lose our reputation, or we suffer other loss because we follow Christ, we should not take offense. There is no need to retaliate or defend ourselves (Romans 12:19–21). Furthermore, we should "turn the other cheek," meaning we should not stop following Christ, spreading His offer of salvation, and forgiving and seeking the welfare of our enemies, even if it means we will face more persecution (Luke 6:27–28).

For Jesus' audience, a "strike" likely includes excommunication from the synagogue (Acts 18:17). For the average Jewish family in the larger cities like Jerusalem and Syrian Antioch, being expelled from the synagogue was serious but the relatively large number of believers in that region helped balance much of what they lost. In smaller towns in modern-day Asia, Macedonia, and Greece, the synagogue was a lifeline for the Jews. This was not only about social opportunities, but also business and even food that adhered to the Mosaic law.

This instruction does not refer to passively enduring domestic abuse or assault. If someone assaults you—with the intent to do real harm—Scripture gives no prohibition against fighting back in self-defense. If a spouse abuses you, it's okay to leave and press charges. And if persecution is against the law, it is okay to allow civil authorities to do their jobs (Romans 13:3–4). What's harder is to also remember that even those steps should be motivated by seeking the ultimate good for the abuser.

Jesus' comment about the cloak and tunic is more obscure. He probably doesn't mean that if a robber steals something you should force him to steal more things, as well. The more reasonable interpretation is that if a Christian loses something while spreading the gospel, through circumstances, hardship, or robbery, it shouldn't make you so desperate to protect your belongings that you quit ministry or succumb to fear. No matter what loss we incur, we should still love our enemies enough to want salvation for them.

Matthew's account of the cloak and tunic is a bit different (Matthew 5:39–40). If someone owed money, the Mosaic law forbade the lender from keeping the debtor's cloak because they would be cold (Exodus 22:25–27). There was no such stipulation for the debtor's tunic, the one-piece undergarment. In Matthew, Jesus seems to be saying His followers will trust God for provision but also be careful to pay their debts.

Jesus, of course, exemplified His own words. When He was insulted, He stayed as quiet as a lamb to slaughter (Isaiah 53:7; Luke 23:9). When He was struck, He did not fight back (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67). He watched as the Roman guards divided His cloak and tunic (Psalm 22:18; John 19:23–24). He refused to defend Himself if doing so would keep the perpetrators from understanding and receiving the grace He offered.
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: