he won a fight
Life sometimes throws up some unexpected ironies. On the eve of Remembrance Sunday, a Briton beat a Russian in a fight in Germany. David Haye became the WBA heavyweight champion. People cheered. Hooray for violence! But this is not the time to reflect on boxing; there is greater violence to remember.
Last week in Sutton (near where I live) a man was violently killed as a group of angry people stamped on his head. A fight that began over a stolen Halloween hat. There is great violence to remember in this world, and it is not just in faraway lands.
Such violence, and the violence of the wars we remember today, reveals the nastiest, most undignified side of humanity. We keep it under wraps, peeping at it from the safety of our newspapers or TV screen. But our capacity for greed, for murder, our lust for power and wealth is all too real. The great Christian writer CS Lewis wrote this: ‘I looked inside myself, and found that I am a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds.’
Jesus recognised the capacity within his disciples for violence. He recognised the capacity of his disciples to struggle, to fall out with each other. Love each other as I have loved you, he said. Love each other even when you disagree. Love each other even though you are so different. Love each other because being humans you will discover the urge for power, for status, the need to be right, to be better than others…
In recognising that part of ourselves, and giving over that part of our characters to God, that its power is taken away. The power of Jesus’ love, the love he commands us to remain in, is stronger than the power of evil that wants to drag us down. And we are forgiven; our zoo of lusts, bedlam of ambitions, nursery of fears, harem of fondled hatreds will not be held against us.
It doesn’t stop there though. The Christian life is not passive. It is a verb not a noun. We have a responsibility, a new responsibility as followers of Jesus. The responsibility is not this: to characterise or dismiss people of a particular race or ethnic background as terrorists or war-mongers as many of us have done in the past and the present to the Irish, Germans, Russians, Bosnians, Arabs…; our responsibility is not to join in or encourage conversations that do those things. Our responsibility is not to glorify war, or to force war on others. Our responsibility is not to judge other people as inhuman and therefore beyond the power of Jesus Christ to transform them, the same Christ who by his grace transforms us.
Our responsibility is to remain in Jesus’ love; a responsibility to love each other as Jesus loved his disciples; a responsibility be prepared to lay down our lives for our friends; a responsibility to be like shining stars as we work out together what it means for us to be followers of Jesus in this messed up world. A responsibility to show the same self-sacrifice as Jesus did. To put you before me; them before us.
violence and remembrance
We remember that suffering and violence do not have the last word, but that Jesus resurrection has the last word, his resurrection that breaks the power of sin and death, that redeems and transforms all who come to know him. So we remember those who have died, and we commend them to God; but also and maybe moreso, we pray for those in places where war is all too real, death all too near, and we pray for transformation of hearts, for transformation of communities – not just them and their communities, them over their far away; but as much us and our communities, for Jesus loving and saving power to do what the gun and bullet will never do. From St Helier to Sutton and the ends of the earth.
We pray that the hope we have and glimpse will be reality; that there will be no more death and tears and mourning; that anger will not turn to violence; but through grace, to peace.
We will remember them.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.