The Revenge Business

As I’ve written about before, living with an openness to new ideas is a bit unsettling. Especially for someone who preaches, writes, and produces content for a living. It means that sometimes I have to challenge things I’ve taught before but now see differently than I did at one time. While this process can be very uncomfortable, it is the only way to grow and is far too rare in Christian culture today. In order to lead by example, here’s an insight into an area of my own theology that I’m challenging and working through right now. As a conservative kid from Arizona, I grew up around a gun culture (after all Tombstone is an afternoon drive away). While I certainly have never encouraged violence toward a person for any type of selfish gain, I hadn’t given a second thought to whether I’d use violence to protect others. This conversation usually starts with someone imagining how they’d respond to a home intruder set to harm one’s family, but it cannot rest there. Eventually you have to consider how we should respond when people anywhere want to harm other people, and then you get into issues such as a just war. Here’s my problem. The more I dwell on the radical, history altering, expectation shattering image of Jesus on the cross, the more difficult it is for me to support violence in any of it’s different manifestations. I can feel your eyes rolling even as I write that. Wait, is Jeremy becoming a tree-hugging pacifist? Calm down, I’ve never hugged a tree before. But I have no idea where I’ll ultimately land on all of this. At this point, I’m committed to challenging my presuppositions, reading lots of arguments, discussing this in depth, and praying for God to lead me to a deeper truth, no matter how unsettling it makes me feel. Let me be clear, I’m not arguing that guns are the issue or that the removal of them will fix anything. I’m talking about a deeper view of seeing the brokenness of humanity and the transforming way the power of the cross brings redemption. This is a complex conversation going far beyond the stereotypical arguments often heard. There is much to consider when contrasting pacifism vs. passivism and nonviolence vs. nonresistance. It is the difference between being reactive or proactive. The most encouraging part of this for me is the surprising comfort I feel in the ambiguity of this process. I don’t know where I’ll land but I know I’m experiencing Jesus in a deeper way through this process. I’m going to read a book soon that tackles this issue specifically and will blog on it when I do. In the meantime, here are a couple of videos that have caught my attention during this journey of mine. Like every other well-cultured American, I’m a big fan of the movie The Princess Bride. Even watching it today I’m amazed how good it still is. Below is a clip of one of the characters reflecting on his role in the movie and the line he thinks is the most significant. I also watched this TED talk about thinking of violence as a disease. Consider the trends and insights he explains here. While his delivery is a bit dry, here is an amazing quote from that talk:
And then we asked the question, well what really predicts a case of violence? And it turns out that the greatest predictor of a case of violence is a preceding case of violence.
That’s the cycle of a broken humanity. In our hurt and our pain we end up inflicting more hurt and pain. It’s the revenge business. What breaks that cycle? Gary Slutkin argues that science holds the key. While science can certainly shed light on the issue, the only truly sustainable key is the cross. It is on the cross where the cycle stops. Where love overpowers hate. Where life trumps death. Where God submits Himself… and wins. I invite you to look at your beliefs, on this subject and all others, and approach them with a willingness to challenge your current opinions. May we all experience a deeper richness of God as we seek Him and allow the cross to transform us.

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co.