January 2015 (1):let’s not descend into yet more righteous violence!

As I write, details are emerging of the tragedy in Paris; at least 12 people are dead. In our minds, this follows on from the siege in Sydney in December. Our hearts go out in sadness to those involved, their relatives and compatriots; we wish to comfort them, to make it as if this had never happened. And then we ask, how does this come about? How does God allow such things to occur?

I think that’s the wrong question, actually; but the straightforward Christian answer to it is, God allows free will (otherwise we would all be robots, doing only what we are told to do); and we use our free will for good or ill as we wish. We all fall short of the best that could be, and that should be, if we are honest. The traditional name for that is ‘sin’. Christians and followers of many other religions have committed atrocities in the past. I would say to anyone who considers violence:If we commit violence in the name of God, we diminish God, especially in the eyes of others; and we make ourselves unworthy of our own humanity. History teaches us this.

Now for the better questions: What has God done about human violence, and what should we do about it? In Jesus, Christians would say that God has acted to do away with the need for violence. Sin is dealt with; hate is dissolved in love on the Cross; but the deep effects of this are not accepted by many, or even most people. Still, God’s response is there for all to see, and it has been talked about and written about for nearly two thousand years. Christians remember it in Holy Communion.

Following on from God’s lead and example, what we humans should do about violence is to choose not to give in to fear, and hate, but to overcome it through love. The individuals who carry out atrocities should receive fair trial according to the laws of the relevant country; those who organise such things as well. But others, people of peace and faith who happen to be of the same nationality and faith as those who commit atrocity should not be made to feel unwelcome or afraid; prejudice spirals into more violence, and that is exactly what the people of violence want. In the end, it is not faith itself that is at issue, but the use of faith to justify violence. Such violence has no justification in itself. So let’s not descend into violence in response to atrocity - let’s rise above it!In this way we demonstrate true humanity, and our response to God’s sacrificial example — for Jesus did not respond to violence with violence. I pray that the leaders of all countries and of all faiths will find the way to peaceful, prosperous, educated coexistence that benefits everyone. We all have a great deal of work to do.

— Steve Jackson

Parkdale Church of Christ 2012-18 —A community of faith, hope and compassion.