Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Don't Trust Jesus. Do You?

Don't react violently against the one who is evil - Jesus
Matthew 5:39 (Scholars version)
I am completely aware that the world operates with the mental model of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. If I were honest, I would say that often I do too. Not that I'm in the least way proud of admitting this as a committed follower of Jesus, who clearly said that there's more to life and living than my violent proclivity.

I am also completely aware that since the world operates this way, that there are many people who won't and never will respond by any other way.

I've had numerous exchanges with people about what to do with the "bad" people in the world - that is, people for whom redemption and change are a literal impossibility. For instance, it hardly seems within the realm of hope that the current leader of North Korea would entertain the idea of peace, of giving up his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, so that he can wield an influential place at the global table. Frankly, and once again, I'm dreadful; especially when I think about how a gun is probably the best and most efficient way to deal with Kim Jong-un, my brother in a common humanity. (Think, covert assassination; sure would save the world a lot of potential violence and death. I'm more than a little tempted by that.)

I've had numerous exchanges with different people that guns are the only way to go in our eye-for-an-eye world and with people who only understand such ways. Don't think that Kim Jong-un is the only one, or that he is a rare personality, albeit a high-profile one. The accepted wisdom (not of Jesus, mind you) calls for a view that power comes at the end of a gun barrel. I recently had someone remind me of that wisdom, and it has stuck in the pit of my stomach ever since.

What I have come to realize is that I too believe that power comes at the end of a gun. That may surprise many of you, given that I am not only a committed follower of Jesus, but that I am a committed Christian pastor, who takes seriously the call to lead and coach other followers of Jesus.

My simple response to myself (as well as others) is: "Power comes at the end of a gun? Yeah? Tell that to Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr. Not to mention Jesus himself, after whom they modeled their lives." I don't pretend that a response like that helps to change things much.

If I had enough faith I wouldn't need to resort to violence. That’s the cold, hard facts to myself. I cannot stop, for instance, murdering people in my mind. I cannot even stop myself from reacting verbally violently toward my wife and kids at times. God forbid if someone broke into my house and tried to hurt one of them, and the visceral way I would respond by hurting them likewise.

For me - that is, to my way of thinking - it comes down to lacking the trust to not react violently. The trust needed to cease, in the words of Jesus, from reacting "violently to the one who is evil." I could probably slice it up another way and make it look a little different. But that's what it comes down to.

Saying all that, though, is perhaps the beginning of being different. Transformation begins with revelation, and in this case self-disclosure. I believe it begins with my words, with confession, with a moment, however brief, of letting my heart turn inside out, not so that Jesus can see it (he already does), but so that I and others can.

Perhaps my words start the process of my transformation in another respect as well. The non-violent words I choose to speak are ones I speak, not so that I can use them to poke them into the eye of another who differs from me, but so that I can keep reminding myself of The Way, the earliest name for the manner of life adopted by the followers of Jesus.

Jesus described The Way once this way: Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

Lord, help my unbelief.