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Violence

CommunityHeadshotAny time we feel personally enraged by acts of violence, we have a tendency to turn towards more violence as a means of restitution or vengeance. You don’t have to wander far on social media to hear the cries for swift and terrible military intervention. This is an understandable and very human response, and I’m not interested in judging those who feel this way. I’ve felt it myself.

But if we’re going to talk about violence, let’s be really honest with ourselves, and clear about what it can and cannot do. Violence will never change someone’s mind. It won’t affect the circumstances that triggered it in the first place. It won’t convert anyone. It won’t make us safe.

What a well executed military campaign can do is remove a concrete and physical threat. Is there a region or territory that is being used to train, develop, and stage guerrilla attacks on cities across the world? Invade that region, control it and pacify it. It will no longer be a staging ground for those attacks. The cost to human life will be extreme and it will not be as simple as it sounds, but if the military campaign is successful, that region will no longer be a threat.

The catch is, of course, that unless every single person who was involved in supporting, training for, planning, or executing those attacks is killed or captured, they will still happen. And really, even if somehow it were possible to make every single person associated with those attacks on every level disappear, the ideology or circumstances that shaped them won’t have been touched.

If what we want is to remove a concrete and physical threat, then we can talk about violence. If what we want is to be safe and live in peace, we better talk about something else.

That something else will actually be harder than violence. It will require self-control and commitment far beyond that required to wield a weapon. For those seeking to follow Christ, it takes the shape of the cross, and means a radical self-giving that is only possible by grace. The cross means practicing compassion and love even when it hurts. It means practicing love even when our hearts cry out for vengeance. For those who choose this path, it may even mean what Jesus said: “if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”

I can only dare to suggest this because Jesus suggested it first. I can only dare to dream of doing it because Jesus did it first.

There may in very rare circumstances be a need for violent military intervention in this broken world. But precisely because this is a broken world there is always a much deeper need for us to follow Jesus on the way of the cross.

About Trevor Freeman

Trevor Freeman serves the parish of St. Mary’s East Kelowna and is the Executive Archdeacon for the Diocese of Kootenay. He still has days where he looks around and can’t quite believe how far God has brought him. During downtime he can be found with a good book, a properly strong cup of tea, at the gym, or playing golf badly. And if he’s honest, binge watching Netflix.
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4 Responses to Violence

  1. Jesus is our Hope & example- good article!

  2. As with pretty much all of us, I’ve experienced violence in my life, but I never retaliated and it ended there.

  3. As Christian individuals our attitude should always be none violence but that does not mean we do not be confrontational ,we confront with love. But as a society it is different as Paul writes”Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

    • I’m not sure I understand what you’re driving at. My concern with the passage you quote is that it has been abused historically to grant the state carte blanche even when the actions of the state have been abhorrent. I’m sure that’s not what you mean though, which turns the passage into something else.

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