John Venables has once again aroused the rage of the British people. Child-killing and now possible child porn offenses – a heady concoction for our society to deal with. Rightly, we become angry. It hurts and offends us. There are not many things we hold sacred any more, not many moral standards we can all unite behind, but offences against children fill that gap. Gathering in packs, wielding weapons of words and worse, we intend to do violence. Violence to John Venables, because he has done violence to others. Violence to the parole board, for they let him out. Violence to Jack Straw for not allowing us to do violence in person.
He should get life, we cry. He should get the death sentence, we cry. He has killed, so he should be killed, we cry. For the sake of James Bulger, we cry. A liberal, tolerant, open and democratic society suddenly loses the plot and we sound like the worst parts of Leviticus.
Is there another way?
At the Faithworks Conference I saw Barry and Maragaret Mizen. They showed another way. On 10th May 2008 their 16 yr old son Jimmy was murdered in a bakery because of some sausage rolls. They told of being absolutely devastated, and they still are. They told of being angry, which they still are. They told of being on the edge of holding it together, which they still are. But they did not speak of revenge. When it first happened, they wanted to, but the words that came out of their mouths were not words of revenge, but forgiveness. Not violence, but compassion. Not anger, but love.
They put this down to Jesus. Jesus transforms our anger, our very real and justified anger. He doesn’t transform it into something weak, into letting people walk all over us. No. He transforms our anger into a passion for justice, for righteousness. Not for revenge. Not hate. Not more violence. The Jimmy Mizen Foundation promotes the good in young people. That is a good start.
Forgiveness is stronger and harder than any kind of violence, whether knee-jerk or planned. Forgiveness calls us to stop, to look deep into the eyes of our hatred, our pain, our anger and our rage, to sweat it out and cry it out, and to keep looking, until the eyes we look into become eyes of compassion, eyes of love. Stand firm, and when you have stood, continue to stand. That is true strength. That is true courage. Not joining a Facebook group or finding Venable’s identity so you can throw a stone through his window. Or worse.
Anger and rage is addictive, satisfying. And the easy option. In an interview with The Times in march 2009 Margaret Mizen said,
“People expect me to be angry, but I believe wholeheartedly it was anger that killed my son. There is so much anger around, it’s actually breaking up society, and I’m not going to let that happen to my family.”
We who have not lost as she has have a lot to learn. We must not leave someone who has been in prison since they were 10 to the mercy of the lynch mob. We must not feel that it is any of our our business.
Jesus said, Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Jesus said, Not eye for eye and tooth for tooth but turn the other cheek and go the extra mile for your enemy. Jesus said Not love your neighbour and hate your enemy, but love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
None of that is easy. It is perhaps the hardest thing in the world. But the Mizens are just ordinary, humble people, falling and failing and yet hoping and believing and being transformed by the power of the risen Jesus, the real Jesus. May we be people who radiate hope in a society that loves to hate, who see God in people who others can only demonise. Jesus prayed that we would be the light of the world. If we stand together, ten million fireflies can give a whole lot of light.
May we be people of light, not bulging with hate and enslaved by rage but bulging with an overpowering love and a liberating hope.
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