taking the words of Jesus seriously

My favorite t-shirt  (a gift from my mates at “On Earth Peace” ) simply reads “When Jesus said, “Love your enemies, ” I think he probably meant, don’t kill them.” I put it on this morning and stepped out of my room ready to canoe to a remote part of Zambia to view inspiring water well projects, when Wezi, my new mate and the regional manager of World Vision Zambia, said “So you have heard they killed Osama then.”

I hadn’t. But the words of our Lord are always timely, especially this morning.

The responses have been predictably grotesque from some quarters (including Fox news that reported OBAMA had been killed) but I think even the ‘tempered’ responses fall short of the glory of the Gospel.

For example a response from a theologian and someone I respect on facebook read in part:

“The violent destruction of evil must be greeted with silence and solemnity not crude celebration.”

Really?

A Christian can affirm: evil can be destroyed by violence?

At the time I read this over, a hundred people (and I would guess predominantly Christian) had *liked* this status update. Now, let me just say that status updates aren’t theological treatises, but just that, an ‘update’. It is also wonderful that they were critiquing those who celebrate the death of a person, as the Vatican did succinctly with the words, “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices.”

Yet after being so moved by the witness of the church and World Vision here in Zambia, I couldn’t help but feel this falls drastically short of the glory of the Gospel. Let us be clear that nowhere in the New Testament will you find a place to locate evil “in them” and not in “all of us”. Nor will you find that affirmation that violence can destroy evil. A brutal warrior messiah who destroys evil with violence is not a stumbling block; it’s what everyone expected and wanted.  Yet our God comes to us as a suffering servant destroying evil by taking upon himself the sins of the world. So as I write late into the night here in Zambia via internet available through satellite, with a computer powered by a generator that drowns out the crickets who are singing in the dark, let me leave you with three things to help us discern our way through a culture that believes in the myth of redemptive violence because it cannot stomach the power of Calvary’s redemptive love:

  1. The words of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that I posted and were retweeted and retweeted today (much to my surprise it was also retweeted by popular comedian here in Australia @arjbarker !)
  2. One of the short videos that some of Australia’s most exciting young Christians leaders (Naomi and Steve Chong) and I made yesterday about that witness to the ways Christ has defeated evil
  3. The words of the Apostle Paul

1. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

2. Video of Permaculture in Zambia:

3. 1 Corinthians 1:18-24:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Lord, let us not be ashamed of the Calvary love has accomplished what bombs, helicopters and Special Forces cant do, destroy evil. Amen.

—-
Jarrod McKenna the National Advisor for Youth, Faith and Activism for World Vision Australia. He is a peace award winning founder of EPYC and co-founder of the Peace Tree Intentional Community in Perth. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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