Today I came across a story about the FBI and DHS roundup of certain members of a so called "Christian" militia group named Hutaree that were planning to start killing policemen with justification of warring for Jesus. I checked the group’s website and was shocked by the amount of scriptures and scriptural justifications they use to defend their plans of violence in the name of Jesus. This seems particularly disturbing during Holy Week when, as Christians, we are reflecting on the week of Passover when Jesus willingly laid his life down to save the world. One thing that struck me as absolutely insane on their website was the quoting of the words of Jesus from John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” How does one make the jump from laying down ones life for friends to preparing to go on a killing spree?
This last weekend I gave a message at our church called “Broken and Poured Out”. The main point of the message is how Jesus overthrew the evil of the world not by inciting a revolution with swords and soldiers nor by politics or money but by being broken and poured out. In fact the night that Jesus said the words quoted by the Hutaree found in John 15:13 was the very night that he instituted the “Lord’s Supper” (Communion, Eucharist). That evening as he shared the bread and the wine with his disciples he spoke of a new covenant which would come by his body being broken and his blood being poured out. It was in this context that he said “Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.” These words weren’t some kind of cryptic call to arms on the contrary Jesus was preparing them for what he was about to do. Later that evening in the garden of Gethsemane when the angry mob came to get Jesus, Peter, one of his disciples, drew a sword, cutting the ear off of one of the servants. Peter, obviously not getting the point of what Jesus had shared earlier at dinner, thought that Jesus needed defending, that he could help God out by fighting the world’s way. Did Jesus thank Peter for coming to his rescue? Did he congratulate him on his courage? No. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword and then he healed the servant’s ear. What a picture of love in the face of evil.
Jesus overcame evil not by perpetuating more evil, not by violence, not by force but by brokenness, by laying his life very life down. Jesus may have appeared weak to the world around him yet he was demonstrating the very power of God. When the kingdom of God comes it looks like Jesus laying his life down for his friends, doing good to those who are evil, and loving the very ones who were crucifying him. We, as Christ-followers are called to do the same. Woe to us when we think, like Peter, that we can help God by taking up arms, that Jesus needs our help defending him.
I will close this blog post with some words of Jesus that have been messing me up for years. I have not yet learned to consistently live in their truth but I am convinced that this is the path on which the very kingdom of God breaks into our world. Lets us consider these words as we consider Jesus this Holy Week.
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?