Weekly Blog - David Flowers - What Would You Do In The Face of Violence?
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Posted on: 19th April 2022

What Would You Do In The Face Of Violence?

What would you do?

Pavel was interviewed on the radio about how he had had to flee Mariupol, the bombed-out city in South-Eastern Ukraine, leaving behind his aging parents. All he wanted to do was to “kill Putin, kill Putin”. Two weeks later he was on the radio again – this time he was running supply lines into the city. Why wasn’t he fighting they asked? “I really don’t want to kill people but I am good at organising teams, so I am organising supplies into Mariupol.”

Denys Karachevtsev has strong delicate fingers, not for resting on a gun trigger but for playing the cello. So that is what the graduate from the Kyiv Conservatory did amidst the ruins of Kharkiv - playing Bach’s cello Suite No. 5 in C minor. He did it to encourage charitable contributions to the rebuilding of his broken city.

In 1989-90 fourteen nations underwent nonviolent revolutions, all of which were successful except China and all were non-violent except China and Romania (Gene Sharp, The Politics of Non-Violent Action).

In times of violence and oppression, people of peace dream up creative ways to respond without additional violence. The peace-filled track record of the famous reactionaries: Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Gordon Wilson, Rosa Parkes and Marina Ovsyannikova inspire us that maybe there is something we too could do in the face of injustice.

It’s not always about wars – it can be domestic violence, the school bully, the micro aggressions of racism, the belligerent nastiness of social media or simply being cancelled for your beliefs. It could be a comic making fun of your wife’s appearance. What would you do in the face of abuse, oppression, violence or injustice?

In a remarkable series of epigrams in Matthew 5 Jesus provokes his listeners with absurd instructions about what to do in the face of injustice: turn the other cheek; give the borrower all the clothes you wear; walk the extra mile; love your enemies. Jesus doesn’t say “run away” or “be passive” or “be neutral”. He didn’t and wasn’t. He walked toward the violence of the cross. His whole mission is active and forward-facing. It’s all about the reclamation of territory from evil. But He does say “Do not react violently against the one who is evil” (Matthew 5:39 Scholars Version) or “Do not fight against an evil person” (New International Readers Version)… “love your enemy”. What would you do in the face of abuse, oppression, violence or injustice?

Can I love my enemy? Maybe I can because judgement and revenge are not my concern, they are assigned to the Sovereign God. Can I love my enemy? Maybe I can because in the light of the resurrection I hope and believe that the day will come when justice will be done and we will see heaven on earth. Isaiah’s magnificent prophecy describes it well (2:4): “He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

The bombs and bullets in Ukraine seem very far away from safe, comfortable Leeds. But when we witness or experience the injustice of racism, sexism or other discrimination closer to home. When we see the injustice of poverty or the pain of violence, let us pray for creativity in our responses as we seek to love our enemy and let us pray for the King of peace to come and establish justice on earth.

David Flowers

Leeds Vineyard - Senior Pastor - Leadership & Preaching

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