Violence

I find myself struggling to know how to respond to our current situation in the world. The problem with ISIS, the Syrian refugee crisis, gun control, any number of political issues, climate change, etc… Everything that comes at us through social media or news coverage seems to want us to react out of fear.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

That statement is way easier said than done. One thing I didn’t see Jesus do was react out of fear. He said the night before being crucified, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) After praying this the authorities come to take him away and Peter, a close follower, pulls out a sword and hacks a guys ear off. Peter has chosen the way of violence. Jesus scolds him and tells him to put the sword away. “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”

Could that be restated in our modern times as “He who lives by the gun dies by the gun?”

Jesus acknowledges that if he wanted to he could have a whole legion of angels at his side immediately defending and saving him from the hands of his enemies. But he doesn’t do that. Instead he gives himself over to those he knew would kill him. Not only does he give himself over, but he prays for them while they are killing him. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

How does he do that? How can he pray for the very people who are nailing him to a cross and actually mean the words that are coming out of his mouth? This is the example we’re to follow? Who can do this?

My wife and I started doing foster care in 2011. When we started I thought I’d be disgusted by the parents of these kids for the horrible things they had put the kids through. In most cases it was neglect brought on my drug addiction, but in other cases there was domestic violence involved that the children witnessed. The girls we have now were witness to horrible acts of violence by their father who was also a crack addict. He took the stand in his own defense at the final trial to determine if the kids would be taken away from him permanently. On the stand he said some of the most atrocious things I’ve ever heard a human being say. “I believe in a marriage it’s normal for a man to slap the woman around a little bit, and if she’s the kind of woman who would call the cops well then he doesn’t need to be with her…” He said this like it was normal, like we all knew it to be true. I wanted to be mad at the guy for the things he did to these girls’ mother, who had since passed away… I wanted to be mad at him for what he’d put the girls through. The lying, the drug use, the violence and lack of taking responsibility. But something happened in my heart towards him.

I pitied him. He genuinely thought that in a normal world this is what life was like. You survived by being the biggest, meanest brute you could be, and that you got what you wanted by physically dominating other people. Show your strength, induce fear in those you mean to dominate, and finally get what you want by domination and strength.

I wasn’t mad. I pitied him, and then even deeper… I loved him. I felt for him because he was beat as a child. He was not shown love, and so he never learned love. He didn’t learn compassion or empathy. He only knew power, control, manipulation, fear and anger. So I didn’t want to hate him, rather I wanted to love him and see him made new.

So the man I thought I’d hate or who would be my enemy, became the man I prayed for even though he had done terrible things, not to me directly, but to the girls I now call daughters. But the real question I face is this… What would I do if someone was attacking my family?

I had this dream the other night that my family and I were eating dinner all together at Applebees. I love that place. I don’t care what you think of me. In the dream we’re all having a great time until a rather large, drunk guy comes over to our table and starts threatening to hurt my kids and wife. Dreams being what they are I can’t remember the whole thing, but I remember being faced with this question… what am I going to do here? I realize I’m either going to have to watch this guy take down my family, or I’m going to do something to stop him. Also, in the dream I didn’t get the sense that this drunk brute was the type of guy to be bargained with, nor was he going to let it end until one of us was no more. I woke up before any of that happened and the question still faces me.

In the situation where those I love are endangered what do I do? On the one hand I’m told to “love your enemies and pray for them…” On the other hand I’m told, “True love has no other than this… to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

I am trying to resolve myself to never react in fear, but to always give my reaction time to figure out what reacting in love would mean. But if in an instance it was forced upon me how should I respond? Kill or be killed?

I can’t imagine not defending my wife and children from the attack of any brute or bully who came after us with intent to kill. I’d do anything I had to do I think to take this guy down. I wouldn’t want to, but if it came down to it I’d defend them to my death. Is this not inline with the teachings of Jesus? If Jesus had raised a family and they were threatened, what would he have done? I can’t imagine him standing by while they were slaughtered. I’d imagine him laying his life down for them.

Because that’s what he did. He laid his life down for his children. He laid his life down for his wife, the Church. He let the violence take him, but not at the expense of his children or his wife.

I guess all I’m saying is that this is a hard thing to work through. The Christian left would say absolutely no violence whatsoever, but the Christian right seems ready to go kick ass and take names… or kill them all and let God sort them out. I find that the rest of the world operates more closely to the Christian right… Violence begets violence. With Christian university leaders encouraging students to carry weapons so they can “end those muslims”… This can’t be the way either can it? Train us for violence…? However going to the left too far seems a mistake as well because are we not supposed to help the helpless? Are we not supposed to save the weak and those who are bullied, marginalized, persecuted, murdered… whatever it may be.

These Syrian refugees, if we were to send them back to their home in Syria, stand a good chance of being killed by either Assad or ISIS. Syria is not the only place with an issue like this. People the world over live in danger of others who have too much power. Are we supposed to just stand by and let that happen? I’ve heard we could cut off money or support to these groups in different ways… Will that really do the trick? Will they slowly fade away into the history books?

I don’t know the answers. I’m mostly just thinking and typing. I lean more towards defending those who need defending, and giving myself up to do so. Does that mean I need a concealed carry permit just in case it happens when I attend the movies with my family, or go out to dinner? I don’t know anymore.

I think as a Christian I am called to give myself up for those whom God loves. I’m called to lay my life down in the hopes that Christ will take it up again. God loves us all though… so you see my issue.

God help me to never react in fear. Help me Lord to always react in a way that is reflective of how you would respond. God save us all… God have mercy on us, sinners each one… God redeem your world.

Come, Lord Jesus…

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