Jesus says not to resist an evil person. Walter Wink says this is often taken to mean that we should passively not resist evil, but this is simply not the case. He sites the original word used here is the word antihistemi, which in its noun form means violent rebellion, armed revolt and sharp dissention. Thus we should understand Jesus to be saying do not resist evil in kind-violence for violence.
Jesus in Matthew 5 gives three examples of how to resist nonviolently. The one I would like to point out is when somebody strikes you (5:38). The implication here is not of attack, but of a slap intending to humiliate and belittle. To strike the right cheek would imply a slap not a punch. Thus the image is one of a master slapping his slave, a husband smacking his wife, or an adult and a child – a stronger person putting a weaker person in their place (as one would only punch an equal).
Jesus tells his listeners to respond neither by cowering nor by fighting back but instead to stand up and turn your other cheek. What this does is destroys the oppressor’s ability to humiliate. Wink notes that the slap is holding up the caste system and its institutional inequality. Regardless of what happens next, the powerful person has lost his ability to dehumanize, and has been forced to view the subordinate as and equal.
We find from this example is that Jesus is teaching his people to subvert the nature power of his day. Note that it is undermining the powers that be. It is promoting the dignity of the oppressed. It is not promoting violently rebelling but it is promoting rebelling against the powers.
We should also note that Jesus is giving us an example of how to respond. It is a living and breathing solution to a problem. It should never be seen as a hard and fast rule. Wink notes that both pacifists and those who reject pacifism alike tend to read this passage as such.
Finally the point of turning the other cheek is not to take power from those in power, but to bring about equality. This is Wink’s point about Jesus’ third way. We should not think that nonviolence is the point, but it is a tool by which we bring about loving equality among men. It is this loving equality that will come when we love our enemies.