“But I say to you that listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” – Luke 6:27-29a
Content warning: intimate-partner violence
Sometimes Scripture is misused. It comes as a blow, a blow to spirit, a blow to the soft places of your heart that Scripture should nurture, not harm.
Weaponizing Scripture is a sin of the worst kind.
“Turn the other cheek” is a beautiful, revolutionary form of love that requires: strength. This, one of Jesus’ many sayings as part of the Sermon on the Plain, is all about what it means to offer love from the place of strength in God.
After this sermon on love: Jesus healed.
Love heals. Love does not strike.
“Turn the other cheek” weaponized is the opposite of strength: it requires weakness.
People in places of spiritual authority who encourage a victim to keep turning cheeks for intimate partner violence weaponize Scripture and enforce weakness that is not grounded in God’s love. Spiritual leaders who enforce abuse strike their victims but they also strike at the very heart of God.
The most effective prayers for abusers are offered from the strength garnered with distance. Pray with your cheek far from the strike and find your strength.
Sometimes the best way to love your enemy is to name them as such. Most often the path to strength is to escape your enemy’s reach. Jesus’ gift here is that you can reach an enemy in prayer. With God’s immediate and ultimate protection and distance between you.
Find your partners in strength and find God hovering near.
NOTE: If you or someone you know needs help, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. For more information, please click here or call 800.799.SAFE (7233).
God prosper our strength. Shield our faces. Help us survive. Build our thriving. Bless our enemies, wherever they may be. May they never reach closer than we can bear. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.