Cast the first stone
Cast the first stone
This is mainly for the Jesus people. People who say they stand for Him. People who say they follow Him. People who say they worship Him. That great big soup of people that comes with all the ingredients but who all say they belong in the bowl.
As the ever glowing embers ignite once again in Colombia and the country burns I ask myself where should we be? Where would Jesus place Himself and why?
In the cities and the country people have risen up to protest. The basics are that the people are exhausted seeing the poor robbed and the innocent killed over and over again. The protests have included some acts of vandalism and violence. This was never the purpose or plan for the majority of those who continue to protest peacefully for what are essentially their basic human rights. As a result the Government has sent in special forces such as Riot Police and Army who have met the protesters with live ammunition, brutality and death. It’s chaos. It’s devastating.
So, where should we be? As those who are Jesus people, where should we stand and for who?
Over here the Institutional Jesus people’s stance (or church as some call it) seems to be at best to remain totally silent and at worst supporting the Government in their actions towards the protests. So I ask again, “Is this where Jesus is?”
The problem seems to be when this question is asked the quick answer is that He does not condone violence in any form. And while that is true that is not actually an answer at all. It’s a statement, generally made by those Jesus people privileged enough to be unaffected by the actual reasons people are protesting.
We’re not discussing whether some forms or violence are ok. We know Jesus doesn’t condone violence. Not at all. However, that being said, we can completely understand where it comes from. Colombia has a long and very present history of violence at the hands of its government. Our current government in Colombia have been responsible for overwhelming violence and corruption, robbing the poor and killing the innocent. This is recorded, very obvious and proven beyond doubt. So, for a government who establishes a country on these grounds it makes perfect sense that a society of people who are victims of this violence will respond violently. While this violence is not condoned it is UNDERSTOOD. It makes sense.
So, how does Jesus respond? Where does He put Himself?
Right now it seems that the Institutional Jesus people of Colombia have positioned themselves very intentionally. At tragic best they remain silent and disconnected but at worst they are publicly supporting the government’s violent responses to the protestors.
While we may not condone the violence of the government we too often see the violence of the protesters being the main focus of criticism. “We shouldn’t respond this way.” “We should be praying for our leaders.” “Well, the government needs to maintain control.” (Mind you, these are the same Jesus people who took to the streets when legislation compromised their position on abortion and the LGBT agenda.)
So where would Jesus stand? Would He pick a side? Would He stay silent?
From what I understand about the Jesus of the Bible, violence did not stop His love. In fact, His love to the violent is a wildly mesmerising quality of His love and His character. He loved us when we were violent towards Him. He sacrificed Himself as a result of our violence, for us, His beloved, yet very violent people. The difference was we weren’t attacking an unjust, evil regime, a leadership of lies and corruption. We attacked a man of peace.
So, for Jesus people, violence should not stop our love. In fact, it should be what sets us apart in this world just as it sets Jesus apart. While Jesus sat with both the oppressed and the oppressor, while He loved both, what defined His love was truth. And truth always picks a side. It is never impartial, apathetic, afraid or hidden. Neither was He. The side Jesus always took was for justice. This meant that although He deeply loved the oppressor this love was not compromised by tolerating injustice. Jesus always stood on the side of justice.
This never made things easier. In fact it disturbed and angered many people. It was a messy and broken path. Those closest to Him were disturbed and agitated by this love. The Jesus people of His time rejected Him and even killed Him. But Jesus was never focused on public perception, personal reputation, social acceptance or even His own safety. He was focused on truth represented in the form of love which is powerfully displayed by upholding justice.
And Jesus stood face to face with injustice. He got between the oppressor and the oppressed. He didn’t wait for things to settle down first. He didn’t calculate whether the oppressed would repent or change their behaviour before He protected them. Rather, Jesus infuriated the religious people when He healed against religious tradition, when He loved against religious tradition, when He forgave against religious tradition. It was because of this that the religious people killed Him. It wasn’t because the religious didn’t know the commands of God, often they were experts in it. What angered Jesus so much was that the religious knew the law impeccably but they did not know the truth of the law. They would uphold traditions and practices for their own glory, not God’s, all the while missing the resurrecting, restorative purpose of these commands.
With the question of, “Where would Jesus be?”, the story of Mary Magdalene won’t leave my mind. (John 8:1-7) A woman accused of adultery is brought, naked, in all her inescapable guilt, to the temple. Here are all the religious leaders. The experts of God’s commands. The law says to stone the woman to death. The leaders hands are ready, stones raised, all according to the law. But, what did Jesus do? Did he grab a stone alongside them? Did He dictate the law to her? Did He first check the guilt of the woman or measure her potential to accept Him as her lord and saviour? Did He stay silent? Did He protect His reputation in this moment, staying quiet now, in the hope of better ministry opportunities in the future? Did He call in the POLICE, ESMAD or ARMY to shoot the stone throwers? NO.
Jesus faced the religious head on. He got in between. He protected and rescued the woman. All the while the woman remained completely guilty, unrepentant, unaware and disinterested in the salvation of Jesus. His protection was not dependent on her response or her behaviour or her confession of sin. It was dependent on His love, the greatest command, displayed through His justice. And we all know who this woman went on to become. A pillar of redemption and strength in His kingdom.
Jesus people, I can’t help but think; What we are doing? I don’t pretend to know all the answers on how we should act. I’m not inferring that. I’m not attempting to give us a plan of action or a directive. But what I do know is that our inaction, silence, our law throwing looks nothing like Jesus. Jesus wasn’t silent or inactive when we were at our worst, neither did He stand smugly throwing the law at our sin. He got involved in the mess of injustice and showed us how to build His kingdom, glorify His name and worship Him as He desires and commands.
So, what are we protecting when we don’t act? Actually, WHO are we protecting? Because it’s not His glory. It’s not JESUS.
A lot of us have wondered what was written on the ground when He defended Mary Magdalene against the religious. Unfortunately, in that search we have overlooked what has been spoken aloud a thousand times before and after. I desire mercy. Love your neighbour. Love as I have loved you. While we were still sinners Christ died for us. Loose the chains of injustice and break the chains of oppression. The whole Bible is a story of Jesus injecting Himself into our mess and rescuing us.
Jesus again and again tried to demonstrate the heart behind the laws. Resurrection. Life. Healing. Justice. Love. We will get it wrong along the path of figuring out how to love like Him, I’m certain of that, I’m an example of that. But, there is never an excuse not to be on that journey at all. Staying silent. Protecting anything other than Him. Throwing the law like rocks. This is not of Him.
Isaiah 58:6-10 (NIV)
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."