This week’s gospel’s lesson is not an easy one:
5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
5:39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
5:40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;
5:41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
5:42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
This is as an important lesson to us as modern day disciples as it was to Jesus’ disciples. Jesus was trying to prepare his disciples for the resistance they would certainly meet as they followed him. Bringing the kingdom of God here on earth was not going to be met without tension and conflict.
And as I read these words in preparation for our weekly chapel service at Transitions with ministrieslab, I knew I had no words, no divine inspiration to offer to a people group who had experienced so much systemic discrimination.
And so I didn’t.
I read God’s word, the word of Jesus to his disciples aloud, begging the Holy Spirit to let these words and truths find a home within my soul and mind and then I listened. I listened to story after story from this makeshift, ever-changing congregation who shared of the times they had encountered people at gun point and had not attacked or responded in kind. I listened to stories of domestic abuse and wondered with the person whether it was wrong to leave that relationship when the gospel says to turn the other cheek. I listened to stories of loved ones stuck in cycles of abuse and heard the hope for their future in the words of their significant others. I heard stories of regret and resurrection lives changed because they finally learned to turn the other cheek and love the very people they didn’t want to talk to, eat with, or be associated with.
I heard God’s voice again and again in the voices of God’s people. God’s people in a group room crowded with too many chairs in a homeless shelter on a rainy Wednesday morning singing “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine,” and I knew this is what we must do.
We must not resist evildoers, but love them, really and truly love them, not merely tolerate them.
We must give generously to anyone who begs from us without judging them for how they might use what we give.
We must turn the other cheek, again and again, as Jesus did, even unto death.
This is the word of the Lord to his disciples.