For the sake of clarity, one should never condone violence, especially from a Christian perspective. The actions of Osama bin Laden were and will continue to be atrocious. The damage inflicted on American soil left a gaping wound that still needs healing. Yet for the sake of consistency, the actions of the American President cannot be condoned either. When violence begets violence, the world continues to suffer. The cycle never ends. The death of bin Laden has not solved that problem. Violent responses are short term solutions that provide a temporary ‘peace’ and ‘security’ that later gives way to further violence.
The cross of Jesus Christ provides a way beyond the downward spiral of violence. Good Friday was celebrated a few weeks ago remembering that cross. Many may wonder of the good brought about by the death of a Jewish peasant. Violence was inflicted on Jesus by Roman authorities with the approval of the religious establishment. His death was the result of the greatest injustice but by the power of God is transformed into the greatest justice. Only after resurrection was it seen as good. The powers of satan, sin and the world system found an end in the death of Jesus Christ. In the resurrection we see the possibility of new life.
In the Pauline letter to the Colossians 2:15 it states:
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (NIV)
Some view the ‘powers and authorities’ as the beings in the angelic realm, others as the reality of satan and his minions or as other’s see it, the worldly system of power. Whatever these powers may truly be, the cross is the place of their defeat and exposure.
So what does that mean for Christians today and the response to violence? The eternal moment of the cross of Christ is where the powers eventually lose. The cross of Christ exposed the true nature of those powers, that in Revelation are portrayed as beastly. Ultimately, it should provide Christians with the strength and courage to face the monstrous powers of violence and dominance and speak the truth in love.
The difficulty of walking in such a way is the violent nature of our own hearts. The natural desire to strike back is deeply ingrained in us. The good news is that that nature died on the cross too. The way of Jesus is now a possibility. It is only by the grace of God one can go this way. May we always keep the cross before us even in the midst of a violent world.