I have two sweet, passive, house casts. The cats recently got to licking each other, which resulted in some biting, then some hissing and scratching, finally we had to separate them.

We did this by moving between them. It’s called splitting behavior.

We live in a violent world — cat fights, family fights, the San Bernardino shootings, the Paris bombing, the civil war in Syria.

An unholy violence touches all our lives. A friend of mine was murdered by her husband.

The Bible is no strangers to this.

Listen to Jesus.

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. (Matthew 11:12)

The Bible is not all happy sheep, gentle doves and precious rainbows. It includes terrors, violence, mayhem — lots of death.

Cain murders Able, the world drowns in a flood, Abraham travels to sacrifice his son Isaac, the Egyptian’s are devastated by the plagues. Paul murders Christians, Jesus dies like a criminal nailed on a cross of wood.

The Bible verifies that life is rough and tough, dangerous, and we are vulnerable and the violent bear us away.

But the Bible also helps us know how to live in such a world, wisely.

What did Jesus say?

Matthew 15:17-19

Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

Jesus said what?

Jesus said that violence — physical, sexual, verbal violence — does not begin with standing armies, tanks, guns and bombs.

It rises out of the pathology of our own souls.

Violence begins my heart and yours. It is not far off.

It is as close to us as our own hearts. Because of this, we must be careful to no let anger and hate rule us or we too might say or do terrible things.

Jesus warned us saying, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matt. 5.21-22).

Yesterday out driving, a slow car in front of me so irritated me, was taking so much time, so timid, so slow that I grew very impatient. It’s in me too.

When I went around them, in my fast sports car, I didn’t make a hand jester. I was so glad. I think it was one of the elders of my church.

Violence lurks in us all. Perhaps we are too strong with our family. Perhaps we are raging about someone at our work. Perhaps we are verbally abusive at home.

We must pray: “God remove hate and anger and violence from my heart.”

Let’s now get clear on this.

Jesus instructs us not to use violence to attempt to bring about his kingdom.

When Jesus was arrested, one of his companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

But Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Matthew 26:51-52)

We must beware of reaching into our hearts and dredging up violence against non-Christians or anyone. It will come back to bite us.

At his trial Jesus said to Pontius Pilate: John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place”

This ” my servants won’t fight” was and is a statement of Christian principle.

It is a principle Jesus is very clear on. He says it unambiguously.

Luke 5:29. “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.”

This teaching is very powerful. We all must grapple with it.

No cheek slapping. Restraint can save us — save Christians and the church — from abuse, from harming others, from crusades, from taking up arms to bring about faith.

Is someone slapping you? Are you slapping back?

“What, ” you are thinking, “do I just stand by, and let harm happen to my self, my family, my people?”

No, we apply the violence cure.

The Bible and Jesus teaches us to bravely stand up against violence.

Just because Jesus doesn’t employ violence, he does not model or encourage us to act like helpless sheep, to give in, to give up.

One way the Bible teaches us to stand against violence is to respect and work with the police and military in their efforts to protect us.

Romans 13:4 says, “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

Police officers, government leaders, military, then it their duty to defend, to sometimes use force to stop violence. They must be brave, do their jobs, but they should never use force — unless necessary.

We stand with them in their role.

In my career as a pastor I have worked along side of the police, Child Protective Services and the courts. I have reported sexual abuse and physical abuse to helpful authorities. I have comforted and counseled women who have been abused and I have worked with soldiers suffering from PTSD.

I have cried with victims and stood in court with them. I have walked out afraid of being beat up on the street.

As a church, my church holds Church Has Left the Building Sundays,. On these we have fixed up a local domestic violence shelter, our staff has reported abuse, we have set up a counseling center, we have paid for professional counseling for victims.

In the last few years, our church has the become the REFINERY, a place where people get better, are protected, can recover.

We are all about, healing hearts, wounded by violence.

Our staff MFT’s increasingly busy. We will report the bully at the school or in the office or on the ship, call the police on the law breaker, report the threat.

We are not helpless sheep!

When one of my daughters was in middle school, she was harassed, inappropriately touched by another student. I went straight to the principal and advocated for my daughter. I stood up and protected her.

I yelled at the principal. I shouldn’t have. But I would not be put off, until something was done. We must protect our kids and stand with them in trouble.

Secondly, Jesus instructs us to stand up to violence with words.

When a woman, caught in adultery, was brought to Jesus, Jesus verbally defended her and stopped her accusers from stoning her.

Jesus did this with intelligent thinking. He used words.

It is recorded in John 8:7 that he confronted her accusers by saying,” “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Her accusers snuck away. This was so powerful that the phrase “throw the first stone” is now a conventional, protective part of our everyday speech.

Go create words; defend women from double standards, defend children from abuse, defend us all, from violence, from a culture of violence.

For as long as we have strength to stand up to bullies, it is both our nature and our privilege to do so.

Following Jesus we should stand against verbal abuse, sexual abuse, sex trafficking, rape, domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, abortion, bullying and racially motivated violence.

My church is the home of the Grossmont College’s Southbay classes to train adoptive and foster parents. We give away space for free for this to happen.

We are The REFINERY that empowers.

We are mending the ravages of family violence right here, right now.

Thirdly, we stop violence by becoming peacemakers.

We Christians should always be growing in learning peacemaking, in learning to conflict negotiation, in finding non-violent ways to stop violence.

Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, [taught Jesus] for they will be called children of God.”

Peacemaking uses the leverage of language, the force of negotiations to find solutions.

Jesus called each one of us to peacemaking.

When I was in South Africa a few years ago the Christians there totally inspired me as to what Christians can do.

When we were in Johannesburg, some of the pastors told us that during the Soweto riots of 1976, the church gathered and prayed.

South Africa was at the brink of civil war, racial war, but the church prayed and white President F.W. DeKlerk unbanned the ANC and unbanned the South African Communist party and of all affiliated organizations, and released Nelson Mandela from 26 years in prison then sat down at the table and negotiated the country away from Apartheid and war and hate.

It worked. God worked a miracle. It was and is still messy, but it worked.

We can take a lesson from this. God hates it when the strong prey on the weak, when innocent ones are harmed, and God helps those who resist this.

We can oppose even our own government when we see that it unjustly uses violence against it’s own citizens or when it uses violence to wrongly dominate people’s of the world.

Christians can stop violence by not voting for haters and war mongers.

It is not unpatriotic to vote for laws and leaders that protect, those who will protect all races and religions and peoples.

We are the people of the first amendment. We stand for protection of speech and religion and safety for all.

Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. And red lives matter. And white lives too.

The lives of our young people matter, the lives of police officers matter too. Christian lives matter; Muslim lives matter too.

All lives matter — the unborn, the sick, the disabled, the old, and the church should work for the protection all precious, God loved lives. We are to protect the lives of those Christ died for.

If we have ever been bullied or beaten or raped or verbally abused, God hates that and he suffers with us and want to protect and help us.

What to do? Report abuse. Get help. Pray. Move away from it. Protect ourselves, protect our friend, protect our children.

Christians need to shelter victims. When it comes to sexual abuse or sexual harm, we need to engage in splitting behaviors.

When I was in South Africa, on church we visited had renovated a whole housing complex that was formerly a Dutch, Afrikaner compound, and the homes were given to people in the congregation if they would take in a baby or child who had lost their parents to AIDS. We saw those homes, we held those babies.

The church can redeem a broken culture.

If a woman tells you she has been raped, believe her, get her to safety, help prosecute the rapist, take her in, keep her away from the abuser.

We need to work with law enforcement, criminal justice, educators, mental health professionals, and many others to stop sex trafficking, to stop sexual abuse.

Too often the church has been too silent and too soft on sexual abuse. No more.

Lastly, Jesus taught and modeled an internal response to violence, “Be not afraid!”

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body [said Jesus] but cannot kill the soul”

And Jesus said: “I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world” (John 16.33).

We Christians are on the side of the winner.

In the end God wins. His peacemaking wins.

God will redeem our evil, violent hearts, and in the end, peace and peace making will rule the day.

This is our certainty.

The Lion will one day lie down with the lamb and yet the peacemaking Lion will yet remain the conquering Lion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s