A few days ago, the president of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., made some unfortunate remarks. Following the tragic shooting in San Bernardino, California, Falwell said the following to an auditorium of students:
These were words spoken by a prominent Christian figure to a room full of impressionable minds in 2015. I felt sick watching the video of him saying those words smugly. Like Shane Claiborne's response, I too wondered, "Are we serving the same Jesus? From the same gospels?" The Jesus I know blesses those who were persecuted and promises them the kingdom of heaven. The Jesus I know blesses those who are peacemakers and calls them children of God.
You know, we think we only start wars with bombs and invasions. Yet, we miss the wars we start with something else—our words. What we intend to say and what we actually say can be entirely different. Furthermore, the words we use have power. They can affect people's actual lives, particularly if we have a platform of influence.
Falwell's words characterize this fearful, fragile rhetoric that says, "Christianity is being threatened and Jesus needs us to defend his honour at all costs." That's right! The saviour of the world needs our defense from the world's lunch room bully. Mmkay.
We fail to see is that this is not courage, but fear, which can turn into anger. That anger can turn into hatred. This is why as Christians we do not operate out of position of fear. We operate from "a powerful, loving, and disciplined spirit" (2 Tim 1:7, The VOICE).
The Jesus I know was betrayed by someone he loved. While being arrested due to this betrayal, one of his followers took up a sword and attacked the arresting party. Jesus said to his zealous follower, "Put your sword back in its place. For who all draws the sword will die by the sword" (Matt 26:52, NIV).
If I could go to Starbucks with Mr. Falwell (get a red cup, of course), I would first honour his life's work and passion for Jesus. Then, I would ask him to consider the following: As Christians, are we asked to take up arms or take up the cross to follow Jesus (ref: Mk 8:34)?
The Jesus I know sacrificially gives up his life rather than try to save it. Jesus isn't calling us to stand up for him (as the old hymn says). He's calling us to stand beside him in the work of peace and reconciliation. While waiting and working for all things to be reconciled, someday at Christmas, Advent offers to us not just the hope of peace for tomorrow, but peace in our hearts for today. So, we can live free of fear and the madness of this world. The One we wait on has already overcome it all.