I watched Hacksaw Ridge last night. Crazy story. I'm thankful someone in Hollywood, in the midst of an industry that glorifies violence, is willing to deal with the subject of non-violence a little bit. I say, “a little bit” because I don’t think the depth of the subject matter was explored to it's fullest, but I’m not complaining. It’s a step in the right direction.
Our culture, like every culture that’s come before it, has bought deeply into something many refer to as the Myth of Redemptive Violence*. That is, the idea that somewhere along the line violence can redeem us; violence can end violence. It is, as the phrase suggests, a myth. Violence will never end itself. The retaliatory strike, whether, in the largest sense, between geopolitical super powers, or the smallest sense, between a husband and wife, is never the last strike. Violence doesn't end violence. Violence begets violence.
I do not know what this all means. I do not have all the answers. I struggle, at times, with how to work this out in my life, and in our world, but what I do know is that Jesus shows us a different way. Jesus doesn't hit back, punch, retaliate, call fire down from heaven, order a legion of angels to fight, swear, lead a military revolt, design a nuclear weapon, or seek revenge. He just doesn’t. He shows us, in his commitment to non-violence, how to be truly human.
When he died, on that Friday, so many years ago, something else died too: the idea that even God would have to resort to violence to set things straight. A great number of Christians, of course, don’t really accept this. Many still think the entire reason Christ lost his life was because God, his father, killed him. And there is a way to interpret the story of Jesus’ death in a way that blames God. I’ve just come to the conclusion that, at best, it's misguided and at worst, it's just completely the wrong interpretation. The story of the cross is not about the wrath of God. God’s wrath didn’t kill Jesus. Rather, God’s love, in the middle of man’s wrath, compelled Jesus to give his life away. The story of the cross is about God’s love. Love is the only story, in the history of the world, that gives us hope violence will end. (copy that. tweet that. share that!)
My favorite part of Hacksaw Ridge is when Dawson is praying, asking God for direction on what he should do in the middle of a terrible battle. He prays, in confusion, “God, why can’t I hear you? Please let me hear you.” He concludes his prayer, and then he hears a muffled groan of agony from someone a few yards away, on the battlefield. He cannot see the man, he just hears him. He knows, at that moment, that the cry of another human is the cry of God. His prayer is answered, and he dashes off to help.
The scene is such a great picture of prayer, and love, and God. Answers to authentic prayer almost always come in ways that we least expect. Love will always wind up asking us to sacrifice for the other person. Caring about what God cares about will always lead us to care for the other person.
How we treat the other person is how we treat God.
*Read Renee Girard, Walter Wink, Walter Brueggemann or Brian Zahnd for more backstory on the Myth of Redemptive Violence