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Jesus and Jeremiah

by davesandel on March 30th, 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Jeremiah 20:10,12

All those who were my friends are on the watch for any mis-step of mine … Let me witness the vengeance you take on them, O Lord.

John 10:31-32

The Jews again picked up rocks to stone Jesus.  He said to them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.  For which of these are you trying to stone me?”

In Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent, Richard Rohr points out Jeremiah’s attitude toward redemptive violence and is grateful these texts are presented together in contrast.  Jesus responds to a similar attack with questions, but not with jeremiads.  He does not suppose that his Father is sanctioning a retributive strike.

Violence can never really be redemptive.  Although … try telling that to generations raised on video games and Rambo movies.

Jesus’ call to “love your enemies” as the basis for effective non-violent opposition to evil gained some ground in the twentieth century.  Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. took this idea into the streets and inspired millions.  But striking back against the cruelty and carelessness of terrorism has become a way of life since 9/11 in America.  This yields its fruit in a variety of violences – some of which are frowned upon, others … not so much.

Perhaps the myth of redemptive violence has always held great power over us.  The ugly history of evil repaying evil carries us back to the earliest history of man.  Adam blamed Eve.  Cain killed Abel.  It gets worse from there.

I can easily recall the rush of righteous energy pouring through my heart when I watched Billy Jack rock the worlds of thugs trying to ruin his friend’s school.  The music and the martial arts, Billy’s quiet smile, the gleam in his eyes, the confidence that filled him up … oh, how I wanted that for myself.  That memory is just a heartbeat away.

But this feeling rises in me like a demon disguised as an angel of light.  I am being called by evil, worse evil perhaps than what I fight against.  Will I once again mix God up with Satan, once again choose wrong?

This choice matters.  It is not six of one, half dozen of another. It is life against death – but which is which?  Life, as Jesus reminds us over and over, is all about dying.  Victory in Jesus does not involve standing on a high bright mountain holding a sword.  It involves settling into the grave and waiting for God to raise me up.

Protect me, protect us, Lord, from resignation and aggression.  Neither is inhabited by your Spirit.  Let me understand a little of what you knew so well, Jesus, about the nature of Satan and the nature of God, and learn to love like you.

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