The recent reports out of Philadelphia describing roaming bands of juveniles randomly surrounding and beating innocent bystanders is horrifying. Let's consider several perspectives of this event.
1. The victim - randomly chosen to receive a beating. How does one respond? Do we fight back, or lay down on the ground and take it? Do we inflict harm on as any of our attackers as we can?
2. The bystanders -- we may not be the victim, but we watch from across the street. Do we rush in to rescue the victim? Do we do bodily harm to those who are beating the victim? Do we at least call 911?
3. The perpetrators -- One day we gather together with other bored kids our age and hatch a plan to cause a firestorm to roil through our community. What drives this herd mentality? Why do we want to inflict harm on random people? Have we considered the long term effects this crime could do to us?
4. Public opinion -- Is there a division in our culture that would cause some to say, "So what?" while others would say, "This is outrageous!"?
I am in a conundrum here folks.
If I walked down the street and saw a group of rowdies surrounding my wife or child, I would probably look like 'Jack Reacher' on steroids. I may not react with the same explosive force if the victim was a stranger, but I would still do something to stop the carnage. On the other hand, I am trying to live into scriptures that the Almighty has placed before me that speak of sacrificial living and being willing to accept and receive persecution because of my faith in Jesus.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and
pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this
world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what
God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2, NIV)
Living a life that is fully open to God's will requires me to set aside my personal desires and focus fully on a life that is dramatically different than what one sees in a warped culture. I don't conform to the world of anger, violence, and retribution. This scripture is one of my favorite top five. In fact, this scripture from Romans was and is my calling verse to pastoral ministry.
Back to this idea of peaceful living. How does one thrive in God's kingdom while surrounded by those who would do harm to us? Should we be able to defend ourselves and use ample amounts of resistance to preserve our life or should we allow violence be our end? The scripture below has always confounded me. I think Jesus is encouraging His disciples to be bold in their faith even in the face of stiff opposition and persecution. It sounds like we are to stand and take whatever comes our way. The martyrs of the Church down through the ages stood before their accusers and went to the Circus Maximus and to the burning stake with faith in their hearts and peace of their lips.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against
you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:10-12, NIV)
I will choose to go forward being a man of peace, but willing to defend and protect those in peril if the situation calls for it. My Wesleyan heritage demands that I living holy while dealing with injustice. I will personally carry my pepper spray each time I go out to run and will intercede on behalf of those who are being bullied and beaten. I will live as shrewd as a snake and as innocent as dove.