Hate Won't Win
In times like these, people may be thinking about the passage that occurs three times in the Old Testament, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."
These words were given as part of Israel’s judicial law to be enforced by magistrates. They were designed to protect the weak against the strong, to serve as a warning to evil doers, and to prevent a judge from administering too great a penalty for those who maimed others. They were never intended to justify personal retaliation and vengeance.
I think there are many in our country who believe we might be better off as a nation if we followed this statement; perhaps we might be safer… who knows? But Jesus had something different to say about this.
The law had been perverted by Jewish leaders. No longer were magistrates the only ones who enforced this law; instead individuals took it upon themselves to administer justice; and in doing so, they fostered a spirit of malice and violence.
Jesus said to resist evil (not to take the law into your own hands). He talks to us instead about peace and love, grace and forgiveness. Let me be clear, Jesus did not say that the Law or Gospels require us to do nothing. (This is the same Jesus who turned over the tables in anger in the Temple.) There are times when ignoring wrongs done or injuries inflicted would be a failure to love and protect. We are not called upon to permit the guilty to escape justice.
Jesus is grace, but Christ does not want us to let evil doers loose in society to inflict more evil. When our Savior said to turn the other cheek, He was saying to offer your other cheek… meaning to respond to insult without revenge. In a sense, Jesus offers up the other cheek as a second chance to reform.
All this came to mind as I considered the heinous crimes against the victims, families, and community that took place at a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Who can understand such actions? Don’t we want this person to pay dearly for his horrendous acts? And how can a person go to such a meeting, be welcomed, sit and listen for an hour, and then just open fire? The shooter only had this to say, "You’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country. I have to do what I have to do."
Here is the problem that occurred in the Old Testament… perceived wrongs and vigilante thinking. It’s what Christ came to change. It’s this kind of thinking that leads to so many wrongs when we insist on our "rights." As Christians we are called by Jesus to be world changers. Through the Holy Spirit, we receive power and strength to respond as Christ responded to those who insulted, beat, betrayed, denied, and killed him. And in some of the most remarkable statements I have ever heard, the victims’ families have said:
"I forgive you."
"May God have mercy on your soul."
"Let’s take this opportunity to repent, confess, and give our lives to what matters the most, Christ."
"We have no room for hate."
"Hate won’t win."
Now that’s the power of love! That’s the power of Christ! Hate won’t win because these precious victims have responded to the most unimaginable wrongs in the most unimaginable Christ-like ways!
I will never forget their pain and anguish, or their response to forgive. It’s still unbelievable that so many responded in the way they did ‒ with hearts of love. If they were to let hate and revenge overtake their souls then hate and evil would win; but instead they choose Christ.They choose love, grace, and peace.
May God bless all of us, and most especially those who have suffered so much this past week. Lord, lift us, heal us, and help us all to be world changers in the name of Jesus Christ.