On the lead up to Easter we consider the ordeal that Jesus went through on the way to the Cross. He was betrayed, convicted by an illegal court, flogged, mocked, spat upon and then tortured to death in the most cruel way. At no point did he retaliate; he was the perfect example of non-violence in a brutal world.
I like to trawl through the charity shops at the second-hand DVDs and enjoy a good action adventure. However, I've noticed how nearly every single cover has someone holding a gun on it. The message is clear: if you want to be a man you have to have a gun - and be prepared to use it! Not to be left behind, increasingly female action leads are seen gun-toting.
The news talks about the "knife culture" in London and our soap operas are full of verbal violence.
As followers of Christ, should we not be following His example? Should not non-violence be at least an aspiration? I believe that we should be preaching a radical gospel of non-violence. After all, on a national level we have the army to protect us and on the local level, the police. We are in a most fortunate position to really try and do this.
Non-violence in our actions is so fundamental that I do not propose using up precious space on that.
Non-violence in our speech is something a lot closer to home. A word uttered in anger can leave a wound that will last a lifetime. In the Bible, James chapter 3, the author lays out the responsibility we have to keep our tongues in check. Or, as Psalm 141 puts it, " Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips."
So that's that... or is it? What about our thoughts? Should we aspire even to non-violent thoughts?
C W Leadbetter was a Christian priest in Edwardian times. His writings are a bit dated nowadays, but full of sincerity, humility and compassion. He claimed to be a clairvoyant who could "see" thoughts given off by people. Different emotions, apparently, have different colours and habitual thoughts cling round a person to form an envelope of colour known as an aura. I do not know the truth of that, but I do know that Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that thoughts were "real things" and not to be dismissed lightly.
Lusting after someone is paramount to adultery, while nursing hatred is equated with murder.
We are always judging people and news events. It becomes a habit. Everything has to be registered by our mind as either "good" or "bad." Why? Much of what happens are merely events and us passing judgements is at best a waste of mental activity. At worst, it is most unhelpful, because our judgements are invariably ill informed, or harsh.
John Watson was a 19th century minister who said, " Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." It is sage advice indeed.
Let us be honest, with our fallen nature, complete non-violence does not come naturally. Even if we restrain ourselves from hitting someone we dislike, we enjoy gossiping about them behind their backs. We want to feel resentment and have little fantasies about them coming to harm. It might be human nature, but it goes directly against the message of Jesus Christ.
I tell you, love your enemies. Matthew 5:44
Turn the other cheek. Matthew 5:39
Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do. Luke 34:34
St Paul wrote about conforming to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8.29). Let us, this Easter, try to conform our lives to that of the Son of God, practicing non-violence in our actions, our speech and our thoughts.
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