Tag Archives: Violence

Peace through Love

PowerAdvent
December 20, 2015

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:46-55

He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants forever.’ –Luke 1:51-55

Church historian John Dominic Crossan* notes that the town of Sepphoris located a short distance from Nazareth was a major Roman controlled city. It was perhaps Mary’s birthplace. The residents of the area saw first-hand the peace of Roman in all its victory through violence. The experience left a lasting impression. At the time of the death of Herod, the Great, there was apparently a Jewish uprising in this city toward the end of regaining Jewish control. It was quickly ended by the war machines of Roman. In some accounts, mass destruction, rape, and pillage was reported.

Mary, like those fleeing the war in the Middle East today, was shaped by the events of her day. Her song reflects the frustration of one living under an oppressive regime. It reflects a faith that God was ultimately in control and would send a Savior at the right time and in the right way and she was willing to play her part in making that a reality.

Many probably wanted another mighty warrior like King David. They got a wise son of a peasant girl who understood that victory through violence is not victory at all. Violence just begets more violence. Can we ever have a world without war? Yes, we can, but we can only do that when we quit letting the violent set our agenda. We, like Mary and like her son Jesus, have the assurance of the God of Abraham that peace through love is possible.

Prayer: Lord move among all the children of Abraham rekindling the hope for a world ruled by love not war. Amen.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dominic_Crossan

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Preventive and Restorative Justice

Restorative justice2Living in the Spirit
October 7, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 22:1-15

 On you I was cast from my birth,
   and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
   for trouble is near
   and there is no one to help.  

Many bulls encircle me,
   strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
   like a ravening and roaring lion.  

I am poured out like water,
   and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
   it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
   and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
   you lay me in the dust of death. –Psalm 22:10-15

Our scriptures this week continue the theme of feeling deserted by God. We are all probably acquainted with the first sentence of this scripture: My God, My God why have you forsaken me. Each time I read the whole text I am struck by how closely it describes the end of Jesus’ life. No wonder he quoted it from the cross.

We call it cruel and unusual punishment and the eight amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits it, but even now it is hard to define particularly when we think hurting, even killing someone else will actually ease the pain from loss caused by another or fulfill our sense of revenge when we fill we have been harmed in some way. It never works. Vengeance begets more vengeance and the spiral of evil continues.

We are called to be the ones to help when trouble is near. In the case of crime that help is best defined as preventive or restorative justice. It applies not only to violence but also to white collar crimes. Helping those to be made whole who use others to their own gain, whether they are drug dealers in back alleys or traders on Wall Street, child molesters or murders, will allow them to contribute the good that God instilled at their creation back to their families and communities.

Prayer: God of Justice and of Mercy, give us the tools to restore your children caught up in crime to wholeness. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Spreading Shalom

swords into plowsLiving in the Spirit
August 4, 2015

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.

 Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, ‘Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.’ The king said to the Cushite, ‘Is it well with the young man Absalom?’ The Cushite answered, ‘May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.’

 The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’ –2 Samuel 15, 31-33

What about human nature allows us to get to these points in life when we cannot seem to come back from the tragic consequences of our own making? Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, political parties against political parties, nations against nations strive for success at the price of their very souls.

There is a great debate in our world today, a continuation of one that has been fought for eons, whether it is better to negotiate peace or obtain it by force. It seems to me an oxymoron to go to war to obtain peace. It also seems, by responding violence for violence, we are allowing our enemies to define us, sap our resources, and perpetuate the cycle of society’s destruction.

Our individual relationship with God is the starting point for world peace. The oneness we share with others who are also honing their relationship with God is the starting point for sharpening our abilities to create a foundation of shalom designed to undergird all relationships throughout the world opening the door for negotiation. It all starts with trusting God more than we trust violence.

Prayer: Lord make us instruments of your peace. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Love not Violence

love one anotherLiving in the Spirit
June 11, 2015

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.  –2 Corinthians 5:14-15

I am an NCIS fan. There is a scene in one of the shows following Ziva’s rescue from terrorists where Gibbs sits across the table and helps her deal with what had happened. She had been raised and trained as a contemporary Israeli warrior to kill before she got killed. Her whole perspective in life was geared for the fight. The experience of watching an innocent man murdered and her treatment by the terrorists had opened her eyes to the wrongness of the violence engrained in her very being from childhood. She sees no reason to continue living. Gibbs says something to the effect that that part of her did die out there. It no longer ruled her life.

In our scripture today Paul is saying the same thing to us. Christ offered his life as a sacrifice so that we could move the Kingdom of God forward, not through violence and hate, but through love. It is not an easy transition to make. Old habits die hard and we do pay the consequences of our own actions, but the way out of the mire of evil exists in Jesus Christ. 1 John says it better than I ever could:

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him…. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. –1 John 4:7-9, 17-18

Prayer: Transform each of us so that all the little things in our lives are ruled by love until all of our whole lives are ruled by love and the whole world is ruled by love. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Violence and Love

Living in the Spirit
August 11, 2014
 

Scripture Reading: Genesis 45:1-15 

Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ And they came closer. He said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. —Genesis 45:4-5

My Sunday school class decided to study the book of 1 Kings this spring. Some felt they did not know much about this section of the Bible. Actually most of us did not know much about it. I am pretty sure now that some wished they hadn’t learned as much as we have. The history of the Kings of Israel following David’s death is pretty gory and cutthroat.

This has, however, been one of the best studies we have done that really forced us to grapple with the nature of God. Does God inflict evil to punish people for their sins? What about the innocents who get caught in the crossfire?  What is the source of evil? How come the “good” kings that are doing God’s will are just as violent or more so then the “bad” kings who did not follow God’s will? Actually using these rather barbaric stories by modern standards provide excellent fodder for dealing with such issues that occur in our world every day albeit usually at a less extreme level.

In our story today, Joseph has interpreted his brother’s selling him into slavery as a good thing. He says the result was that God sent Joseph ahead to preserve life, not only the lives of his family but the lives of many people throughout that area impacted by the famine. One thing my class pretty much agreed on in our study of Kings was that God works God’s purpose out in whatever muck we may throw at God.

So where does that leave us? There are a lot of really evil things that happen in our world every day. We as followers of Jesus Christ have chosen a path for life that is paved with love. God is working toward a world ruled by that love. We are called to work beside God and with God to the end that love will overcome evil. It actually already has in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God who is Love, we don’t understand the violence of the Israelite kingdoms some three thousand years ago any better than we understand the violence in our world today. We do know that your desire is that we live love in all that we do. We do know that we can only do that through your amazing grace. Strengthen us for the tasks you set before us. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.