Another kind of violence

Philippians 3:17-21
Óscar Romero knew the violence of the world. He served as bishop in El Salvador in the late seventies. He denounced the violence that ravaged the country as a result of its civil war. The only side he took in the war was with the poor. It cost him his life. A death squad killed him while he said mass. Even at his funeral, bombs and gunfire killed dozens of people.

We all know violence in some way. Some of us have felt its power firsthand. It has destroyed many of our families. For others, it infatuates. And good luck getting people to realize that. It’s like a cult.

I’ve joked with parents about this. If a movie contains sexual scenes, they don’t want their kids watching it. If the main character assassinate an entire village, we’ll buy our kids the t-shirt. Yes, violence also sells.

Bishop Romero spoke of another kind of violence. He said, “The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.”

The violence of love. To be sure, Romero didn’t advocate committing violence to yourself. Violence seeks to destroy. So, the violence of love wants to destroy our addiction to self. Bishop Romero also said, “I believe that our church in San Salvador is giving the reason for its hope, because it does not put its hope in power or money but in the source of its hope, which is Christ crucified.”

We commit and allow violence because it serves our sense of self. The love of money and power affords us a high tolerance toward violence. But we claim the lordship of the One who gave up his life to the violence of others. And that One calls us to take up our cross. That’s a tension we need to address in our lives every day.

The apostle Paul considered many people to be “enemies of the cross of Christ.” Could he be referring to us? Well, are we intent on seeking the blessings of God while ignoring the call of Jesus? Are we lured by the power of violence but taken back by the violence of love?

As long as our god is our belly and we set our minds on earthly things, the extent of violence won’t matter too much. It will only be something we care about if it impacts us in a personal way. If we set our mind on the violence of love, our hearts transform. We see Christ in new ways. We better understand his willingness to lay down his life. And it becomes more clear what our lives should be in response.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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