Love is hard, and revenge is satisfying. Violence is glorified and esteemed in our society. Redemptive violence is held as a value and a virtue: if you do something bad then I can and should make it right by doing something bad to you. We see this in every area of life, from bombing and invading Afghanistan and Iraq to flipping off other drivers on our streets. It’s everywhere. We get even. We make snide comments behind their backs. We mock and denigrate others for their politics, their race, their sexuality, their education or their class.
During Lent I preached a series of sermons about redemptive violence, suggesting that Jesus calls us to a different path. It was interesting how many people came to me to ask about exceptions. What if this situation comes up or that? Can I use violence then? We believe in the effectiveness of violence down to our core identity. Love is the harder choice.
In the Easter season I have preached a series of sermons asking how we can know the risen Christ. In each of these sermons I have suggested another way that we come to know the risen Christ; personally, communally, here and now. Each of the ways we have explored have included love: love given, love received, love enacted, and the giving of our lives as the ultimate act of love. But let’s face it, love is hard.
Love is hard to do. Love is not magical. Love does not just happen to us or for us. Love is something we choose to do. Love is an action that we take in the face of enormous pressures to react with violence. Yes, it is easy to love beautiful children and grandchildren. It is easy to love the good lady next door who is so kind and generous. What about the manager who gave you a bad review? What about the ex-wife or ex-husband who made your life so miserable? There are far more people that are hard to tolerate, let alone love.
And yet, we really do believe in love, and so we are constructing a new narrative in which we support one another in choosing love over violence, revenge, or getting even. That new narrative flows from our worship. Our worship empowers us to follow Christ by welcoming the stranger, feeding hungry bodies and souls, giving of ourselves, and inviting others to join us in this counter-cultural life of choosing love.
Yours in Christ,