Archives for posts with tag: Violence

When someone does you wrong do you get over it or do you get even? The tendency when you are offended or assaulted is to strike back. Retaliate.picture of retaliation - Revenge rubber stamp - JPG

Justification for retaliation is found in the concept of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This is a part of Mosaic Law used in the justice system of the ancient Israelites. The principle of jus talionis or lex talionis is that the punishment must fit the crime and there should be a just penalty for evil actions. Justice should be equitable; excessive harshness and excessive leniency should be avoided.

It has been suggested that if everyone practiced “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” the result would be a world of blind and toothless people.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness…. The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

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Is there a better way? Perhaps the law of reciprocity offers an acceptable alternative to the law of retaliation. The law of reciprocity means that when someone does something nice for you, you do something nice for them in return. The act of returning a kind gesture or favor basically goes without saying. Unfortunately the all too often mindset is that when someone does something harsh or unkind, we in turn act in like manner.

Jesus in white robes, sitting on a hillside by the sea, surrounded by a large group of people who are listening to His teachings.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counters the teaching of personal retaliation: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38–42).

These verses may be the most difficult verses in the Bible.

On another occasion Jesus taught that the practice of retaliation would not provide any positive results. Instead, he said “all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

The Apostle Paul instructed the Christians of his day in this manner: “ Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even… if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:17-21, The Message)

“Evil is powerful, but good is more powerful. In fact, evil is so powerful that only good has the power to overcome evil. Darkness can be driven away only by light” (Jay E. AdamsHow to Overcome Evil). I think Jesus would agree- and so do I.

Jamie Jenkins

 

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Keeping the rules may be a requirement of an orderly society but it is not enough just to “keep the rules.” Actions are sometimes just a way to put up a front that disguises the real person. Appearances do not always present an accurate picture.

Our actions are often prompted by political correctness or for personal gain. We must be careful not to prejudge the worth or value of something, by its outward appearance alone. A person may “act” right but in unguarded moments their true self is revealed. Judging a book by its cover is often misleading.

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Confucius said, “I have yet to meet a man as fond of high moral conduct as he is of outward appearances.” Jesus suggested that “keeping the rules” is just the starting point. It is the outward manifestation of how one should behave. But more importantly is how one thinks.

The Imitation of Christ by a Kempis Thomas:

“A sure way of retaining the grace of heaven is to disregard outward appearances, and diligently to cultivate such things as foster amendment of life and fervour of soul, rather than to cultivate those qualities that seem most popular” (Thomas a Kempis).

We may obey all the laws and rules of society but harbor hatred in our heart. God calls us to be more than “good law abiding citizens” but to be equally concerned for the best interest of others as we are for ourselves.

Amber Benson is an American actress best known for her role as Tara Maclay on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She says, “There is so much more to this world than outward appearances. Our society basks in the illusion of normalcy every day, and hides from the truth every night.”

Ten Commandments Tablets

Observing the “thou shalt nots” (Exodus) is fundamental to right living. But Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) instructs us more fully on right behavior: He teaches us that

  • Resentment and bitterness is always destructive
  • Lust and violence have no positive value.
  • Faithfulness in marriage involves more than monogamy
  • A person’s word is their bond
  • Retaliation is never appropriate but love and respect is always right

The “Law’ is our school master that teaches us the baseline of right behavior. But it is only the starting point. It important to observe “the Law” but it points us to a deeper truth.

God judges persons differently than humans do. People look at the outward appearance; God looks into the heart.

Jamie Jenkins

 

Recent events in the United States and across the globe could easily plunge one into depression.Suicide bombings, killing of police, military unrest, continued threat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations, violence of all sorts seem to be everywhere. It is not hard to see how discouragement and despair could easily reign.

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In the face of current conditions we must be diligent to guard our minds and spirits. The dark days of inhumanity compete with the light of everyday. If we give into the darkness, then evil wins.

This is not a time for a Pollyanna attitude. An unreasonably or illogically optimistic attitude is not the solution. However, as we face what seems to be our new reality we maintain a positive and hopeful perspective. The glass may be half-empty but at the same time it is also half-full.

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Optimism does not require one to deny reality no matter how harsh it may be. Unless one recognizes things as they are, at least momentarily, one cannot contribute effectively to finding the solutions to problems. Realistic optimism sees things as they really are and hopes, believes, and works to make them better.

Trouble in Mind is a blues song written by jazz pianist Richard M. Jones. The first known recording of the song was in 1924 by singer Thelma La Vizzo with Jones providing the piano accompaniment. Since then it has become a blues standard and has been recorded by many artists including Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Hot Tuna, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Texas Playboys, Dinah Washington, and Hank Williams, Jr.

There have been numerous renditions by a variety of musicians. In many versions, new lyrics are added. However, most usually include the opening verse:

Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always
‘Cause I know the sun’s gonna shine in my back door someday

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In spite of the positive expression of hope in the original first verse, Janis Joplin’s version in 1963 and Nina Simone’s 1965 rendition sounded a note of desperation and hopelessness. Recently I was listening to Atlanta resident Francine Reed singing and her version communicated hope in spite of the obvious troubles of life.

If you follow the news reports you can honestly conclude that the world is a dangerous place and fear can overcome you. There are too many stories to ignore the serious implications of the climate of culture in many places. However, all forms evil and violence cannot be allowed to triumph. There is something we can do about the harshness of hatred.

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In a world where unrest and turmoil are prevalent people of faith are called to be peacemakers. In an environment of hatred and prejudice we are called to love our neighbor and even our enemies. Even as darkness hangs over us much of the time we are called to be the light in the midst of darkness. When others look for and point out the worst in others we are called to see the best in everyone and to stand against the worst that is also present.

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I am not suggesting that we ignore or deny the difficulties that are all around but our attitude and action can and will make a difference. There is no doubt that trouble is all around but we can proclaim with certainty, “I’m blue but I won’t be blue always ‘cause the sun’s gonna shine in my back door someday.”

Jamie Jenkins

 

O Lord, we praise you because you are a great and mighty God. We praise you because you are a tender and compassionate God. We praise you because you are an all knowing and wise God. We praise you because you are a God of grace and mercy.

In recent days we have witnessed the unthinkable in Nice, Istanbul, Baghdad, Dhaka, Dallas, Orlando, Minneapolis….

Every day seems to bring a new disaster. Every day people are killed because of their religion, race, gender, lifestyle, or money. Every day children lose their innocence and often their lives. Every day people die because someone chooses to drive under the influence. Life seems to have little value to so many.

With the psalmist (Ps. 13) we ask, “O Lord, how long?” How long will our enemies cause unthinkable pain and suffering? How long will injustice prevail? How long will greed and hatred wreak havoc in our world?

With the prophet Habakkuk (Hab. 1) we know, “There is strife, and conflict abounds… (It seems that your) instruction is ineffective. Justice does not endure because the wicked surround (us) … (and) Justice becomes warped.”

Lord, we confess this morning that it is easy to get discouraged and become despondent because of the evil that seems to be everywhere. But we “trust in your unfailing love; our hearts rejoice in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).

Our hearts are broken and our spirits are sad because we have experienced the “sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, (that) threaten the soul with infinite loss.” But with the hymn writer, we declare that your grace is greater than anything. In the face of so much pain and sorrow, so much grief and fear, we claim that “marvelous, infinite, matchless grace” to cover us and our world in these difficult days. Our hope is in You, O Lord.

We pray for the victims of violence and injustice everywhere. We pray for those who are responsible for such heinous crimes. We pray for our world and all people that you created.

We pray not as a ritual without meaning but we believe that authentic prayer prompts action. It affects behavior. So, Lord, help us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but transform us by the renewing of our minds. Help us to think right so we can act right. Bring out the best in us. Guard us from becoming so well-adjusted to our culture that we fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix our attention on you, O Lord. Change us from the inside out so that our lives will be pleasing to you. Deep within our hearts we really do want to be like Jesus and we want our lives to reflect Him.

Hear our prayer, O Lord, for we offer it and ourselves in the name of Jesus. Amen.

*This is the Pastoral Prayer that I offered today (July 17, 2016) at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia

History has recorded many tyrants, despots, and dictators. They have destroyed civilizations and wreaked havoc wherever they have been. Inestimable damage has resulted from their autocratic and violent reigns. Currently terrorists are creating chaos and destruction throughout the world.

Whether they rule a nation, control a radical religious or political faction, or espouse racial bigotry, they are all bullies. Some are powerful political or religious figures while others are angry societal misfits. They are all bullies.

“Everyone likely has a bullying story, whether as the victim, the bully, or as a witness.” (Michael Honda)

We have heard a lot recently about bullying among children and youth but bullies are not only nasty kids or mean teenagers. Bullies come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. They don’t all capture the news headlines or make a big splash. But they cause immeasurable harm to individuals and groups of all sizes.

Bullies may be aggressive drivers, pushy salespersons, bossy friends, co-workers, or angry strangers. They are the kid who steals a classmates lunch money. They are the boss that uses their position of power to harass those who are less powerful. They are close friends, neighbors, and family members.

Bullying can include repeatedly making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, or excluding someone from a group, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

You may not call them bullies but you know them. You have encountered them. With their words and actions they use intimidation, threats and fear. They play mind games of manipulation and control. They cause much emotional and physical  damage.

The Irish Times (Dec. 12, 2015) reported that “one third of trainee doctors say they have experienced bullying and harassment at work, according to a survey by the Irish Medical Council. The survey also found that over half of trainee doctors – 56 per cent – have witnessed someone else being bullied or harassed.”

“Bullying is a national epidemic.” (Macklemore)

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, asserts that “matters of workplace harassment (bullying) have gained interest among practitioners and researchers as it is becoming one of the most sensitive areas of effective workplace management… Under occupational health and safety laws around the world, workplace harassment and workplace bullying are identified as being core psychosocial hazards

Bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who is insecure. (Shay Mitchell)

Bullies are unhappy and unhealthy people who act out in inappropriate ways that inflict harm on others in an effort to boost their own sense of self-worth. They will continue to have their way at the expense of others and cause harm until we stand up to them and say “no more.”

We must recognize the strength that lies within each one of us- whether the bully is a radical Islamic terrorist, a family member, a friend, or whoever. We must resist the efforts of bullies to force their agenda upon us. We must not allow any individual or group to destroy our dignity as children of God.

In the beginning of this new year let us pledge to be present for those who feel they have no voice. To stand with those, near and far, who are oppressed. To oppose anyone who will attempt to impose their ideas and ideals upon us or others through intimidation and harassment. Let us join Jesus in his mission “to set free the oppressed, downtrodden, and bruised” (Luke 4:18).

Jamie Jenkins