Saturday, June 21, 2008

Violence

It is easy to get angry at the violence in Scriptures – even with the violence of God. But the message is not the violence. The message lies behind the violence.

This idea does not justify the violence. To justify violence is as wrong as the violence itself. But we can’t throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water. Using the idea of a punishment/reward aspect as a cultural norm, violence becomes a natural facet of punishment. Different degrees of bad behavior require varying degrees of punishment.

A child does something wrong; a child is punished. The problem with this type of learning tool is that we feel punished far more often than we feel rewarded. Good behavior – since it is expected – is often merely that…expected. No fanfare or pats on the back because we did what was expected; rather, ordinary good behavior is most often ignored. Only exceptional behavior receives applause, laud and honor.

Yet one screwup and the reign of terror begins.

Since this is an age old way of dealing with children, does it not seem likely that it is one of those generational things we learned – one of those “traditions” that regretfully has been learned and remembered all too well? “Spare the rod; spoil the child.”

It is evident that the authors and interpreters of the Word of God fully believed this lesson.

The Hebrews do as is expected and God sits in heaven and is pleased. The only way that the Israelites know that God is pleased is by the fact that crops are growing, rain is proportional and all is well – meaning, there are no plagues of disease or insects or captivity. God only make the Holy Presence known if that Omnipotent One is Pissed Off.

Is the meat spewing out of the Israelite nostrils the main message in the Numbers 11 Scripture? No, of course not. Yes, giving the whiny Israelites what they seemingly deserve is a violent punishment and personally, I gave a certain perverse giggle at the thought of all the spewing that swept through the greedy Israelite camp. But is this truly God or merely an interpretation of the people who were inspired to write their thoughts? As is the case now, so was the case then – greed is the message.

What do I need to see in this Scripture? How does it apply to me? What does it require that I change?

Would I have been satisfied with the sweet manna from heaven each day every day for a long period of time? I seriously doubt it. From my exalted privilege of standing in front of a near full refrigerator and stating “there’s nothing to eat”, I hardly think manna every day would quench my desire.

With our crucifixes firmly attached to our walls and in our minds, we concentrate on the actual death of Jesus. The New Testament may not have God burning up cities , crushing entire armies or even sending plagues , but the idea of being nailed to a cross is fairly violent. It is easy to see how some can be distracted by it but is the message of Jesus actually about the crucifixion? I don’t believe so.

Hanging offenders on a cross in public was a punishment meant to deter others from the same crime. It was a normal way for the Romans to mete out punishment. Jesus was a terrible offender. He offended mightily those who held tightly to what they perceived to be their own authority. Therefore, as is the case then and now, if a person offends the authority too much or for too long, that person is at minimum incarcerated or at most (or in Texas) killed. It is just the “norm”.

Did Jesus have to die? Don’t know. Don’t care. Not the point in this argument.
What I do care about is what I perceive to be the dual message behind the violence of the crucifixion – the life of Jesus and the resurrection of the Christ.

To concentrate on the crucifixion, even to berate and decry the violence of it, is to lessen that life which Jesus lived and which ultimately led to his death. He lived a life that was in such contrast to that life being taught; he frightened those in power, so much so that they wanted him dead.

The message is this – If we buck the system, we run the risk of dying.

BUT…

Because of the death, we have the Resurrection. Those who give their lives will find their lives. Jesus said so.

No one can take away that which is given to us by that message.

Even if we die, we will live. That is the stuff of martyrs and saints.

What is this life but a chance to Live? Are we not called to follow Jesus? But how far? A little bit of the way? Half way? Or all the way? How far?

All the way into the Resurrection…

And how can we get to the resurrection if we don’t follow the life? How can we get to the resurrection if we stop at the Cross?

We could live without the violence. But…would we have paid as much attention?

2 comments:

Karen Chatham said...

Hi Barbie! Mom told me about your blog so I came to check it out. It is really very interesting. I like what you said about not stopping at the cross. I could not agree with you more on this.

Because of this,I want to share with you a very personal experience that gave me a wonderful perspective on this subject.

About 4 months ago, I was praying and meditating on God's Word about the woman at the well. During that time, God gave me a vision I will never forget. It was as if He took me back through time and placed me right in front of the cross. It was so very, very real to me.
The smell of sweat, the sounds of blood dropping on the rocks that held up the cross were amazingly vivid. When I looked up, I was completely overwhelmed and I really did not know how to take it.

Jesus looked at me from where He was with a look of love and grace that penetrated my soul. I was the one being pierced, it seemed, by His powerful presence.

He spoke to me in a whisper and said, "You have loved me with all of parts of your heart, but not with all of all of your heart." Then a vision came within the vision. I saw my heart like a beautiful stained glass window, but it had these pockets of darkness intertwined in the glowing colors. He showed me that the darkness was my sin of fear where I had not completely trusted Him with my whole heart. Fear of losing Troy, fear of disappointment, fear of success, fear of failure, and so on.

Then I noticed a brilliant beam of light come down from His heart to mine. Physically, I felt a painful pulling in my chest. He was drawing out fear that was so deeply rooted in my heart that it actually hurt. He drew it up into His own heart like a slow vacuum. I watched the blackness go into His body on the cross and I saw His reaction when it invaded His heart and I thought to myself,"May I never knowingly cause this kind of pain to Jesus ever again."
That is when I knew how willing He was and still is to take the worst of me into Himself and replace it with His goodness.

I was numb for the rest of the day after that melt down.

I thought God's dealing with me was over until He unexpectedly brought me into another vision while I was praising Him in Church about 3 weeks ago. In my spirit, He said, "You cannot experience the resurrection life I have for you if you do not experience the tomb."

Again, it was as if God took me back through time and I found myself in the cold, dark tomb of Jesus. I was buried with Him. Then it was as if Jesus, Yeshua ha Mechiach, took my spirit within Himself and allowed me to experience the death that I deserve without His grace. He took me straight to hell.
I felt the heat, I saw the flames, but I felt so safe in His arms.I knew He had a purpose, but I didn't know what it was.

Then something fell off of him and fell into the flames, but I couldn't tell what it was. He said, "That was your sin of fear. See to it that you fear no more and put your trust in me from now on."

Since that day, peace has invaded my life. I have no desire for fearful thoughts. I even lost my desire to place blame on others. I guess Jesus took more than my fear that day.
All I know is that Jesus would willingly take that fear over and over again if He had to, but He won't. He would bury it over and over again if it would save my soul, But He won't. He won't have to! The fears that had me enslaved and bound are gone forever, dropped into hell (thank God) and the temptations to fear are not worth the pain that He would willingly take upon Himself again for my giving in to them. These visions have motivated me to guard my heart from new fears that would love to blacken it again.

So, again, I couldn't agree with you more. How can we get to the resurrection if we stop at the cross?

Your sister in Christ,
Karen Chatham

P.S. Say hello to Debbie, my sister, and sweet Tucker and give them an extra hug for me.

Barbi Click said...

Karen, you are fairly awesome. Thanks be to God!
Have you read anything by St. Teresa of Avila (1582)? or Julian of Norwich? (1416) They were women who had visions. Or read Evelyn Underhill - she is more of a modern day mystic.
Very beautiful. Very awesome and amazing.
I am glad you found your way to the blog. I will pass along your hugs and love.