Revenge Roots or a Tree of Reconciliation?

Revenge and violence are mindsets that should be foreign to anyone who believes in God. Patrick Maxwell, a 29-year-old American who served in Iraq, went back years later to fight ISIS. His main reason for doing, he told a New York Times reporter, was that in his first stint in Iraq he never once was able to pull the trigger and kill an enemy soldier. And then american sniperthere was the grammy award winning film, The Sniper, about a soldier killing whom he called savages from his invisible vantage point. Oh, the main motivation for him was something like, “We kill them before they kill us.”

We’ve see a lot of killing in our world in the news of late, in our back door and in this tiny world gone wrong. The endless debate about just wars and the need to develop smarter weapons to reduce civilian deaths never seems to heal our world. Its as though we bought into the narrative that violence can end violence. Mostly it creates more of the same.

“Yet when you live life knowing that you’ve killed someone, it is scary. When I reflect on what it took for me to end a person’s life, I cannot recreate my mindset. To spill blood and end a life, I forced myself to rationalise that another human should die. And power over life is addicting. Very addicting.” US Marine Thomas James Brennan as told to the New York Times

The ancient commandment said it blunt and without apology, “Thou shall not kill!” That’s a law given by God inscribed on a stone tablet during a smoke-filled-fiery-mountain moment. Thousands of years later on a calmer mountain without smoke, the deep words spoken came from a red hot passionate heart. The rabbi said that Moses got it partly right, but it didn’t go deep enough. The true intent, He said, was about anger. If we could understand the heart, the intent of the what was said by the one who made humanity it becomes clear that a new world order that works is not based on laws, but on a transformed way of seeing that changes our way of living. We call it the beatitudes. He, the Son, called it the wise building a house on the rock.

Those penetrating words spoken on a mountain to the poorest of the poor by the Son are more radical and revolutionary than we are likely to understand. We know the unbending two-worded commandment, “Don’t kill…” But have we taken a moment to understand the deeper intent? The intent is reconciliation. “Take no revenge, don’t nurse hate, don’t be holding grudges, don’t be calling them idiots, because those are the roots of going for the kill.”

Those who believe in God should be versed in this altogether lovely intent, ‘reconciliation.’ Its our responsibility to do all we can to make it happen on this limited planet of billions. Think about the deep roots that grow a towering tree that could provide the shade of safety for all, men and women and children, gay or straight, conservatives or liberals, from all nations. A tree of that size requires tremendous roots! Grace, merctreesequotiay, peace-makers and forgiveness would be the heavy working roots. Its what that rabbi, Jesus, was all about. Not everyone agreed with His message, so they did what they did to everyone that didn’t fit into the system, they killed Him!

But it started a reconciliation revolution that eventually broke down the ‘us-and-them’ dividing walls!!! But a revolution like this has to first start where the deepest of intentions spring, in the heart. Once it gets there it becomes the best kind of addictive.


“You Can Quote That!”

A handful of people get agitated if I quote people who are not of their religious or moral persuasion. Yet sometimes they do say things that are worth hearing and are also true! I was taught that all truth is still God’s even if it is not written in the Bible. If the Pope or quotation-marksJohn Piper or Pink says that mercy is at the very top of the Christian hierarchy of great truths, it is still true no matter who says it! By the way it was Pope Francis who made that truth statement.

Truth can stand on its own, but truth standing by itself can appear to be a little high and mighty. Are you surprised that John describes Christ in the opening chapter of his book as being full of ‘grace and truth’? What an attractive combination. A good chef knows the key to being a top chef is in the presentation! presentation is everything! The way we present the Good News should be seasoned with a generous amount of grace. If I come across as superior and judgmental, most likely the truth I am trying to share will be left on the plate and scraped into the trash bin.

In practical terms, if you overheard me in conversation with someone who says something ridiculous, and my response was to jump all over that and to bring that person down to size, think of what effect that would produce.  Not only will that method NOT bring him over to my side of the river, he will proceed and build a dam to block my side of the water from seeping into his!

After many readings of the gospels I honestly conclude that the truth message Jesus brought was both authoritative and welcomed because it first came from the gentle grace He exuded. He developed real relationships rather than destroying arguments. Please quote me on that! It is no accident that John mentions grace before truth. Another way of putting it is that He gracefully incarnated truth before He proclaimed it. Yes, there were a few occasions when He pointed out truth that wasn’t received. That is Bridge-over-troubled-wate-006normal. And we can point out times when He was indignant towards those who were supposed to represent the heart of God, but instead made heaven’s heart look like that of an unbending dictator.

Everything being equal, the pattern of Jesus’ life and conversations suggests to me that wonderfully designed mercy bridges were framed for the outcasts, the marginal, the poor, the unclean and the sinner to enter over to God’s Graceland. Quote me on that too and keep it in mind for the next time you have a conversation about truth.