Love your enemiesLuke 6:27-36
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 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. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

The events of the past week or so surrounding, and following, the death of George Floyd on the 25th May have made me reflect on how we treat each other when we are hurt, what our responses can be like when injustice visits us, those we love or those we associate with. The instinct to lash can be so powerful that it overrides everything else.
This moment, this unjustified tragedy has spark so much anger, resentment, frustration and I can see why. It is the latest in the long line of false accusations and deaths that has happened to person because of the colour of their skin. I know that there have also been unjustified deaths of people of all skin tones and each and every one of them is abhorrent and should not be justified. Yet their does seem to be an underlying, institutionalised issue with racism that cannot be ignored.
But, in spite of all the pain that has been, and is being caused, I have also witnessed some beautiful moments when people have realised that what unites us is so much more than what divides us. I have seen the need to protest about this state of affairs be married to a rejection of violence (except by the few intent on deepening the divide on both sides), a desire to make their feelings know and tears seen through peaceful action. I have seen reports of police officers in America kneel before the crowd and seek forgiveness and be met with tears and hugs and unity, of police officers holster weapons and walk towards the crowd and with genuine heart ask ‘what do you want from us?’ and then respond by walking with the protesters, a Genesee County Sheriff takes of his riot clothes and walks towards and speaks with the protesters then walks the protest march with them… and no violence occurred.
And these moments of unity, courage, passion and conviction reminded me why Jesus said these words, and words that can also be found in Matthew 5:43-48,

Matthew 5:38-42 - “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

These words do not deny the wrongdoing, they do not seek to hide the abuse – we are in fact, as Christians, called so many times in the bible to reveal hidden wrongs, to out abuse, to protect the vulnerable, weak, broken and poor… these words when taken with the words from Luke 6:27-36 give a response so powerful that it cannot and should not be ignored. In these words Jesus is rejecting violence in all it’s forms, personal, institutional, structural… he even shows us what that looks like as he journeys towards and eventually dies on the cross. Love is to be our marker for everyone, even for the man that is creating the culture that fuels division and hate.
It is never an eye for an eye, it is always love, hope, compassion, equity, justice… even in the hardest of times.