Violence or Reconciliation?

The violent story of Cain and Abel introduces us to a world rooted in conflict and rivalry, a world in need of reconciliation and renewal.

At Next Reformation Len shares this quote from Parker Palmer in his post The Violence of our Knowledge.

“It is important to recognize that to do violence to each other we need not drop a bomb or hit someone with a stick. We do violence in much more subtle ways. My operating definition of violence is that violence always involves violating the integrity of the other. We do violence whenever we violate the integrity or the nature of the other.”

Larry Chouinard makes the following points in regard to male/female relationships. I would like to extend the context beyond marriage relationships and consider these concepts in relation to people in general.

Anger creates an atmosphere where another is dehumanized and devalued. Divorce is the ultimate statement that another has little value and can easily be discarded.

Adultery is fundamentally the “breaking of covenant” that shatters relationships and undermines community identity.

Many who leave church have experienced this kind of violence in their church community. The occurances are too common and widespread to be written off as isolated incidents. Whether we call them revolutionaries or exiles, there are multitudes who have experienced violence at the hands of insecure leaders and political church systems.

That is one of the reasons there is such a resounding call to examine the structures that allow and perpetuate systemic violence. Political manipulation in church relationships has no place in true kingdom life.

Violence seeks to isolate and separate people from community. It treats people as less than human. Violence is a sin that attempts to suppress and negate inclusion. It occurs not only within churches, but also in relationships with those outside of church.

Jesus embodied God’s way of reconciliation. His incarnational ministry of reconciliation involved radical love, healing, forgiveness, the subversion of systemic evil and dominating hierarchies, inclusivity, welcoming the disenfranchised and marginalized, and the Spirit of peace to dwell within a new community, the church.

Do we recognize this kind of love in legalistic fundamental Christianity, agenda-driven evangelical Christianity, or head-in-the-clouds charismatic Christianity? Likely, the reason Christianity is perceived as offensive is because the lost have experienced the violence of our attitudes and actions. Rather than proclaiming a message of redemption, often the message has been one of rejection.

The church is called to identify and reject this violence. As Christ’s reconciling community, the church is to be a counter culture, an alternative society. As a Jesus-shaped community the church is to be the people who embrace the poor, oppressed, and marginalized, the community of resistance against systems of domination.

The church has often failed to be a sign of God’s redemption.

Someday, the church will move from its focus on power, domination, and control to forgiveness, compassion and equality. Not so much leadership-centered as Jesus-centered, it will empower everyone to participate in God’s reign of peace and justice, and it will resist the forces of injustice.

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7 thoughts on “Violence or Reconciliation?

  1. I believe the church’s call in the world is to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. It is to obey Christ, teach others to obey him, and baptize and make disciples. Inside the church, the people who are called by the name of Christ are to be obedient to him and his word. When reading the New Testament, especially many letters from Paul, there are strong warnings against believers who trample upon their relationships with God and with other people. Jesus is very serious about that. Most of the sin the church points out against the world is actually meant to be pointed out first and foremost against itself. The world is expected to be unconforming to obedience but the church is called to obedience to Christ. When the church behaves as the world does it loses it’s impact and witness and the kingdom of God suffers loss. This is why the church must be a safe place to confess sin and a place which calls for repentance (especially among believers). A place which believes in and shares with each other the forgiveness and restoration and new life given by Jesus. The church must be a place which is also dangerous to the darkness by being a place of forgiveness, restoration, healing, deliverance, and freedom.

  2. After I closed the comment window, this jumped out at me “Rather than proclaiming a message of redemption, often the message has been one of rejection.” I think here you have hit the nail on the head. In a high percentage of folks we have counseled and prayed with both for healing and deliverance, rejection and the spirit of rejection has been present. Whether it came from family background, life experience, judgements they made against themselves, or from the message of the church itself, this is a very debilitating thing. It robs people of experiencing the true love of the Father toward them. When people become free of this, it is amazing to see their countenance change.

  3. really good comment and right on.
    Grew up in the church you described.
    Can’t be part of that today. Too busy spreading the kingdom of God.

  4. Sorry Grace about the double comments above, have no idea what happened there, apparently I forgot to take the carbon paper out when I typed it. (perhaps you are not old enough to even know what carbon paper is)

  5. I got this quote from slice of all places. Could not believe my eyes. It is a great one regarding religious tyrants and what it means to be free.

    AW Tozer:

    The free man has never been a religious tyrant, nor has he sought to lord it over God’s heritage. It is fear and lack of self-assurance that has led men to try to bring others under their feet. They have had some interest to protect, some position to secure, so they have demanded subjection from their followers as a guarantee of their own safety. But the free man – never. He has nothing to protect, no ambition to pursue and no enemy to fear. For that reason he is completely careless of his standing among men. If they follow him – well and good. If not, he loses nothing that he holds dear. But whether he is accepted or rejected, he will go on loving his people with sincere devotion, and only death can silence his tender intercession for them.

  6. inheritor,
    Great comments. I agree that we weren’t called to point out sin in the world, but rather to bring God’s love to the world. I think that the spirit of rejection is a part of our “lostness” and exactly what Jesus came to deliver us from, bringing us acceptance, adoption, and sonship.

    I erased your duplicate, and yes I remember carbon paper, I even remember mimeographs!

    revabi,
    It’s nice to meet you. I love your attitude – “too busy spreading the kingdom of God.” :)

    david,
    What an awesome quote. I think the things he identified, self-protection, ambition, self-interest, are what strengthen the status quo of institutions.

  7. AMEN, Sister!! Great thoughts- as always. We are definitely on the same vibe. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Grace & Peace to you! :o)

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