Turn the other cheek.

Do unto others.

God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.

Forgive and you will be forgiven.

The pastor at my little house church taught on Luke 6 this past Sunday. We ended up having a long, long discussion about what Jesus meant, what he wants us to do, American politics and the Black Lives Matter movement. It was not a comfortable conversation; my husband and I were the only two black people in the small group.

But I wanted to share how I felt. How can I, a black woman, be asked to turn the other cheek, to love my enemies? I announced to the group that I don’t think I can do what Jesus taught that day. What about justice? This, after all, is the Gospel of Luke. This is the social justice gospel, the one with Mary’s freedom song, the one that is all about the least of us. But there it is, as plain as day. One of my pet peeves is using a hermeneutic with the starting point of “the Bible clearly states.” In my opinion, much in the Bible is not clear, and it is always read through the lens of the reader. But this time, even I think Jesus is pretty clear about his message. How many more ways can he say it? He says it in myriad ways; he gives examples, he then launches into parables. He wants to drive this home.

This morning I awoke to a video of another black man gunned down by the police. Terence Crutcher was unarmed, hands up. He ended up bleeding all over his white shirt on the pavement. After my anger had started to boil, I was reminded of my recent meditations on Luke 6.

Turn the other cheek.

“But God, this sounds like I am asking for more abuse. If you say you will protect us, why should I have to do this?”

Do unto others.

“But God, I think I do treat others the way I want to be treated. The problem is the other people who don’t do that.”

God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

“I have been ungrateful, and I have done wicked things. I am a sinner, and I am thankful for grace. I know you are capable of giving this grace. I just don’t know if I am.”

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“How can I be merciful? What about that man whose life was cut short? And his family, his children? Where is their mercy?”

Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.

“But how I can I fail to condemn what is so clearly wrong? Nothing will ever change that way. We will be passive and enable injustice.”

Forgive and you will be forgiven.


Earlier in the month, we tackled another doozie Jesus drops on us in Luke 14.

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26, NRSV

Am I supposed to hate my brother and my husband to be a disciple? Is that what I do when I turn the other cheek or refuse to condemn the condemnable? Do I hate my sister when I fail to Say Her Name? Because to me, that does feel like hate.

I do not have any answers to these questions I ponder in my grief. But what I do know is that now more than ever, it is crucial for the Christian body to hold fast to a theology of inclusion. That is, remembering the way Paul brought together the early Jewish and the early Gentile churches. The way Jesus used the Samaritan and the Canaanite women to model love for the Other. Dare I say, the Bible clearly states how we should act.

Until God’s realm reigns on Earth, I will continue to try to follow Jesus’ commands. One thing the Bible clearly does not state is that it would be easy because it is not.

5 thoughts

  1. Much that is in scripture creates tension, but life is not a binary and the best path often lies between. Turning the other cheek does not mean forgetting and moving on. In this case, it can mean not letting the shootings oppress us and working to insist on justice for the shooters and a change in mentality that shootings will be a last resort instead of a first reaction. That may be the best we can do.

  2. Thank you for posting your honest thoughts, emotions and conversation with God on this. I appreciated your point of view when it is so difficult to have dialogue on a topic weighing so heavily on our hearts, minds, consciences. Thank you for seeking God.

  3. We should never forget that mercy and forgiveness go hand in hand with firm action to achieve justice.

    Hate is a semitism which does NOT mean what it appears to mean when translated into 21st century English.


  4. “In Him (Christ) we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him Who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11) has always been a soul-strengthening verse for me, especially when I strive to get a stronger grip on the absolute authority of Almighty God, today, yesterday, and forever. Reasoning from the top downward allows believers to embrace God’s divine purposes and unwavering divine counsel in some measure, especially in the wake of so much human injustice and senseless loss of life. On this side of eternity, we will never understand why the Lord allows these atrocities. Yet we will trust Him. We must trust the Lord. Surely, He has the power to prevent these things. Then, as we think of the brutal death of Christ, we are reminded that no human has ever suffered as He suffered, bled, and died. God still got the Glory and the Victory.

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