Monday, June 13, 2016

Violence, Fear and the Opportunity to Save Our Country

   I join with so many who are praying for peace and comfort to the families of the victims of the shooting in Orlando. I pray for a sense of safety and protection for others who feel threatened based on their race, or religion, or location, or orientation. It is not okay that people are targeted and killed, for any reason.
   I offer these words, as our response moves beyond prayers for peace. Addressing the US Congress in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln said,

It is not "can any of us imagine better?" but, "can we all do better?" The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise - with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

One of the dogmas Lincoln was referring to certainly included slavery. I cannot help but think he also had in mind the violence that turned a nation's disagreements into a national war that tore families apart and spilled more blood than any other conflict in our history - roughly 2% of the population, an estimated 620,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty during the Civil War. Violence is not the way of Jesus; we must disenthrall ourselves from the evil grip of violence.
   Violence starts in the heart. Jesus re-interpreted the Old Testament prohibition against murder, found in Exodus 20:13, as having its origins in the internal emotion of anger toward a brother or sister. Read Matthew 5:21-26, again. There is a better response than anger or violence. It is submission to the kindness that leads to forgiveness. People do harm to each other all of the time. It is not okay, but responding with violence to something you see, or hear, or receive is never the way of Jesus. Instead, Jesus said, "I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well," in Matthew 5:39.
   Redemption starts in the heart. The heart is most shaped and affected by the nurture of the home. We must do more to shine the light of Jesus into the homes around us. We must teach adults how to parent well. We must speak against the cycles of abuse, of neglect, and of abandonment, and address the underlying causes of such devastating environs on the lives of children. We must return to being a church that is reformed away from arguing over practice or policy and back to being all about transforming society one changed-life at a time. Remember, every act of violence is acted out by someone who was once an innocent child.
   Grace and peace to the families of the Orlando victims. Grace and peace to people who live in fear, and to our country and world as we seek to live anew. Grace and peace to you and me as we struggle to live in the non-violent, counter-cultural way of Jesus. Scott

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