Prince of Peace
As we enter Christians’ Holy Week, which culminates with Easter, the day of Jesus’ resurrection and the beginning of God’s new creation, it’s an apt time to reflect on Christ’s lasting teachings.
Prior to Jesus’ incarnation, God had directly communicated His Law through the Ten Commandments.
Number 6 reads “Thou shalt not kill.” Of course, in the many centuries since the commands were received, Jews and Christians have engaged in sometimes widespread and brutal killing. Legalistic apologists defend this, saying the true translation is “Thou shalt not murder,” and killing in the course of war is not “murder.”
Let us leave such interpretations to the lawyers and the Pharisees.
For Christians have no such recourse: Jesus, in his self-proclaimed role as coming to fulfill the Law, went much further:
You heard that it was said to the ancient people, “You shall not murder”; and anyone who commits murder shall be liable to judgement. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement; anyone who uses foul and abusive language will be liable to the lawcourt; and anyone who says, “You fool”, will be liable to the fires of Gehenna. (Matthew 5: 21-22)
He amplifies the message:
You heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: love your enemies! Pray for people who persecute you! (Matthew 5:43-44)
This week marks Jesus’ matching his deeds to his words. Rather than lead an armed rebellion against the brutal Roman empire as those who refuse to accept his Messiahship expected, he submitted to its tortuous death, and thereby demonstrated the utter futility of such methods against Truth.
So, if by his life and death Jesus could unleash the eradication of the Roman empire, slavery, the subjugation of women and others low-caste; and the rise of Reason, Science, and the attendant glories of the discovery of God’s order, how much more should we recipients of these further blessings of His teachings take His message to heart?
Does might make right? If we are to love our enemies—if we are not even to be angry, much less kill—how can we then justify undertaking total war against innocents, sending forth death by remote-control, calling one another to hate our fellow children of the One God?
Let all of us who celebrate this Holy Week reflect: Are we called to be the modern instruments of empire policing the world and imposing our will by killing our fellow man, or to be Peacemakers? And if the latter, what does that imply? Surely far more than being charitable to the poor or undertaking mission works.
And in fact, Jesus certainly seems to say that peacemaking is our highest calling:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Dare we be so bold as Jesus in our denunciations of those who carry out killing in our name, using our treasure?