Sunday, 8 May 2011

Violence and the Bible

by Rev Peter Lockhart

In the story of the walk to Emmaus Jesus helps open the eyes of the disciples by explaining to them the scriptures and how they related to who Jesus was and what he did. As Jesus disciples we are called to share in this task, but this is not always an easy task.

I was teaching year 6 religious education this week and we are looking at the story of Cain and Abel. One of the students asked the question “Why is there so much violence in the Bible?”

In answer to the question I asked the students what the main story had been on the news the previous night. They knew it had been the death of Osama bin Laden. When asked to describe the scenes that they saw they told me that they had seen people cheering and partying and celebrating.

I suggested that whilst Osama bin Laden may have committed some terrible acts celebrating anyone’s death, or the need to kill anyone, reflected the kind of violent world in which we live and so the scriptures explore the kind of people that we are and expose that and challenge that.

I did not have an opportunity to continue the conversation with the children due to time but to interpret the scriptures a little more closely on the point. Maybe the celebration at someone’s death, even a so called bad person, reflects the kind jealousy and hate that occurs in Cain and causes him to kill his brother. But the violence has consequences and they are not good ones.

As mothers, as fathers, as uncles, as grandparents, or simply friends of children our attitudes and ideas about violence and war will be one of the defining building blocks in a child’s life and so reflecting on it spiritually is important.

The challenge for the disciples who were walking to Emmaus was that they had imagined for themselves a Messiah who would seize political and even military power. One who would throw down the corrupt leaders among the Jewish people but even more importantly defy the Roman imperialism.

It is the response of violence with more violence, power with greater power, and there is no doubt that there are parts of the Old Testament which seem to point in such a direction.

Yet Jesus interprets things differently for the disciples asking them, “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”

Jesus, and God’s response, to the violence of the world is not to respond to the violence with more violence but to traverse the way of death and so make a new future for all humanity.

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