On Sunday we explored one of Jesus’ more controversial teachings to turn the other cheek. We learned how the primary value we ought to be living out each day is the love of Christ. It does not matter if someone returns that love or is downright hostile to us, we are called as followers of Jesus to respond the way Jesus would respond. That’s what Jesus meant in the Sermon on the Mount when we embrace God’s peaceful kingdom. When someone strikes us, we respond with God’s love, confident that we are a child in his kingdom.
After the sermon, I was reminded of a powerful story about a young African American woman named Keshia Thomas, who was featured in Life Magazine’s photo of the year compilation in 1996.
Keshia was 18 years old when a group from the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in her hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. A large group of counter protesters showed up, greatly outnumbering the small, yet vocal band of white supremacists.
The day was peaceful for the most part until an older gentleman with swastika tattoos was spotted near the Anti-KKK side of the gathering. Mob mentality took over and a few people began rushing toward the man, pushing him to the ground and trying to beat him. Keshia saw this unfold and ran toward the brawl, eventually placing herself between the crowd and the man. She shouted a people to stop (namely saying that you “can’t beat goodness into a person!”) and that violence wasn’t the answer until police arrived to break up the fight. In some photos of the incident, you can actually see Keshia try and hold the man’s hand in order to offer some sense of comfort and protection.
Keshia never heard from the man or whether the incident had changed his worldview. But she did hear from the son of that unnamed man, who thanked her for her loving, selfless actions. In later interviews about the day, she even talked about her Christian convictions and how she felt God’s power when she threw herself down to protect the man, namely that angels were right by her side. Keshia’s words about the incident are so touching:
“I knew what it was like to be hurt. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me.”
Only through knowing Jesus Christ can we show love towards our enemies. Jesus was serious in Matthew 5, and God gives us that ability to chose love over violence the closer we draw unto him.