Monday, May 2, 2011
There's quite a stir in the cyber-world today. It's definitely a day for the history books, an event that I imagine will have a lasting impact on our world: the death of Osama bin Laden.
What is interesting to me-- what I've been chewing on all day-- is how to respond as a follower of Jesus.
I believe in justice. A fire lights up inside of me when I hear about abuse, oppression, slavery.
I can remember when I was a Junior in college, I spent a summer working at an after school tutoring program for inner city kids. A beautiful 8yr old boy named Danny became my little buddy one week & we were inseparable. One day, he pulled me aside into an empty room & lifted his shirt, revealing bruises & scars covering his chest & stomach. He quietly confessed that his father abused him, and told me stories that turned my stomach & brought me to tears. That afternoon, his father picked him up from the church, and it was all I could do to keep myself from going after that man with a club, cussing him out, slashing his tires & smashing his windshield. I'm not proud to say it, but I hated that man.
I also believe in grace & mercy. Like any of us, I want mercy for myself-- to get out of the speeding ticket I deserve, to be forgiven for running late or making a hurtful comment, or on a great, grand scale, to go to heaven even though I am selfish & lazy. But I also recognize grace as being something sacred & holy-- something with the power to disarm, to turn things on their heads.
I remember being in Uganda and seeing the unspeakable things that Joseph Kony and the LRA had done to the people there. One of my friends prayed that Kony would have a change of heart, that he would come to follow Jesus, and change his ways. Something inside of me balked. I confess that in that moment, I would rather have seen him die than to have to accept him as a brother.
And that brings me to today. How do we respond to the death of a wicked man? Should we rejoice that he cannot bring further violence, injustice, pain & suffering to the world? What does it look like to love your enemy and hate injustice? Should we mourn the fact that he never found God, forgiveness, healing? Are there circumstances, like in the case of Dietrich Bonhoeffer joining in an assassination plot against Hitler, where we are called to kill our enemy? Is it wrong to want justice for people like him, but grace & mercy for ourselves?
So many people have been quoting (and mis-quoting) Martin Luther King today-- a man who gave a dignified strength to Grace & Mercy. When I read his speeches, I see Jesus in him in a way that I don't see in myself. And even though I can't pretend to carry this kind of grace inside of me, it gives food for thought today...
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
p.s. Great thoughts on this topic from Brian McLaren