The Fracture Factor

The world of humanity is fractured. All of us, at some time or other, have contributed to the problem. We are a divided bunch. Chalk it up to our upbringing with it’s differing cultural values and education. Or blame the media for it’s fear mongering and biases. Even the varied climates and geographical terrains can and have shaped people’s lives and responses to the outer world. But perhaps our take on politics, race and religion is the greatest fracture-factor in the deepening of divisions. You would think at least religion would bring us closer as brothers and sisters in the human family.

I have visited Sri Lanka often over the years. I can still remember the many sandbag checkpoints throughout the capital city of Colombo with soldiers toting machine guns. At each checkpoint our driver would have to stop and produce papers and be questioned by the soldiers as to where and who was in the car. A few times I tried to speak some Sinhala, but never got as much as a smile. Those were tense times! The country was deeply divided among ethnic lines. Though the war was officially declared over in 2009, tensions remained over politics and religion. Even those of the same religion or denomination had a hard time getting along! When feelings get hurt, there is resentment. Where there is favoritism, there will be jealousy and envy. We become so childish that we no longer have the maturity to apply wisdom to the situations that occur. And you know what? All the sermonising in the world won’t make a difference!

So what will?

Well, before I get there let me tell you what won’t change our world, in fact I can guarantee these two evil twins will make our world worse: they are hatred and revenge. The late Maya Angelou once wrote, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” Think about that! The problem as I see it with hatred is that if we hate those who hate, we now become haters like them. It’s like trying to build a positive building on a negative foundation. Will that building really be positive and can it stand when the hatred in its various forms comes towards us? We cannot perpetually attempt to make our world a better place with the practices of hatred, violence and exclusion and think we can remain innocent ourselves. All manners of hatred simply generate new manners of hatred. Yes, we do need to hold responsible all those who do evil. Their ways are loathsome and diabolical. We do not close our eyes to their evil crimes against the human race. But to become haters ourselves only leads to more hate and revenge.

So, here we are again faced with the awful Easter Day terror attacks in Sri Lanka. The fatalities keep rising and thousands of people are adversely affected, a whole country in mourning. The latest revelations say that what occurred was the result of revenge attacks to avenge the fifty who were killed in a Christchurch mosque by one hateful shooter. It’s the same lousy narrative we have been hearing over and over in our world since time began. Friends, we need to break this cycle of hatred. It won’t be broken by nice words, Facebook posts, or as I’ve said, by sermonizing. It can only happen by an opposite force that recreates our way of thinking and identity.

Darkness will not lift the darkness. Only love can overcome hate! Now you may think I am getting all ‘religiousy’ with you here, but hear me out. I am a follower of Jesus. That’s not a secret. So let me talk about Him for a moment. Jesus came with a message of love, reconciliation and a new kind of kingdom paradigm. When He started to speak publically it began with a call to ‘repent’ and that had more to do with rethinking everything, our perspectives on God, on blessing and our responses to evil and hatred. The word repent, you see, had not as much to do with crying for our past mistakes as rethinking our future. (Although crying once in awhile over our mistakes might be a healthy thing to do!!!) When He cleansed people of ‘unclean spirits’ (however we understand that term) and made the lepers clean, His aim was to reintegrate the excluded into the human community.

Another observation of the life of Jesus was that His love knew no boundaries. Think of that. He wanted to break the walls of exclusion, recreate us all, regardless of culture, background, geography and the like, into a family. And that is why he little trouble hanging with ‘sinners,’ prostitutes, tax-collectors, and all manner of people. I am sure that if His mandate happened to be in our day He would have lots of LGBTQ friends, refugee and homeless friends. You may not like that, but that just the truth of the matter. His was a message of a purity of heart and learning to see God in all places and people. His hardest command was to love our enemies. Can you imagine how that went over in a culture where destroying the enemy was a spiritual duty!

In the end the greatest question could be, “Did Jesus live out His own words, you know loving even the enemy?” Well, that’s the Easter story you are asking about. The story of His betrayal, the trumped charges, the mocking, and the torturous crucifiction would shout out yes! While the nails ripped through His flesh, hear Him pray aloud, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” If we could learn to love our enemy and bless those who curse us, and stop calling others ‘idiots and heretics’ it would nip so much bad stuff in the bud! We don’t know what will be the end of the story in Sri Lanka, will the church with resurrection life rise above rhetoric that divides and live into the newness of a life that loves? My hope is, and it is the hope of all who are born of love, is this will be the church’s finest moment in Sri Lanka.

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.