19th October 2011

The Cycle Of Violence

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’…No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink;.. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:19-21 (NRSV)

It is said that the events of 9/11 changed the world; but did it really?  It certainly began a sequence of chain reactions that has profoundly affected the world, but did it really change the world?  Or was that day simply the addition of the latest chapter in the legacy of hate?  Is it not just the same old thing that has been happening since Cain slew Abel?  The perpetrators of 9/11 who were armed with hate didn’t change the world, they merely perpetuated the cycle of violence and revenge.  Our response to such barbaric acts determines whether we contribute to this cycle of violence.  Author Brian Zhand states, “To respond to hate with hate enshrines the status quo and only guarantees that hate will win – it’s what keeps the world as it is.”

On the cross, Jesus took the blows of hate and vengeful violence so that He, and only He, could end the cycle of violence that has been humanity’s history.  The Christ-like love that absorbs the blows and responds with forgiveness is the only real hope this world has for real change.  Christian forgiveness does not call on us to do nothing in the face of injustice, but it does call on us to meet injustice with mercy and forgiveness when administering our justice. The call to forgiveness is not a form of weakness or self-deception.  It is not an abandonment of justice.  The call to forgiveness is the call to stop the cycle of revenge.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to believe in the radical proposition that love is more powerful than hate.  We are called to believe, that although hatred may be very powerful, it is love that never fails and that love is the greatest thing of all.  If we hate our enemies because they first hated us, and return hate for hate- because that is what hate does- we will continue to live in the ugly world of hate and its endless cycle of revenge.

Desmond Tutu in his role as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, made the profound statement that ‘There is no future without forgiveness’.  But when love enters the world of hate and is willing to love even its enemies, a new and real kind of change comes to the world—a change where hate doesn’t have the last word!

Our Lord Jesus Christ came to give us a future by ‘overcoming evil with good’.  He broke our cycle of violence through the forgiveness of our sins enabling the restoration of our relationship with our Creator.

Father, thank you for breaking the cycle of revenge and retribution that is the way of a fallen humanity.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for taking the burden of our sin and suffering the blows inflicted through our violence and hatred.  Thank you for showing us the way of forgiveness that brings hope for the maintaining of our relationships now, and for a future time of peace and joy.  Thank you for overcoming evil with your goodness.

Study by Ian Smillie

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