Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 84: Living out One’s Faith
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 84: Living out One’s Faith

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

On the road to Damascus, Jesus did not say to Saul, “Saul, Saul, why don’t you believe in me?” Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) Saul had been blind to his participating in the scapegoating mechanism. He had believed that stoning Stephen had been a righteous act under the Law, even though the text describes Stephen’s innocence and holiness. His experience with the resurrected Jesus left him literally blind. When we can see, we readily mimic the values and beliefs of those around us. Unable to see, Saul could search inside his own mind and start to recognize how he had participated in unjust scapegoating violence. This totally transformed him such that even his name changed.

Paul went on to spread the Gospel far and wide among the Gentiles. Christians are called to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19; see also Mark 13:10, Luke 24:37). What we need is the mind of Christ, which I think is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Having the mind of Christ requires a total transformation from the universal human tendency to express fear and hatred in the form of scapegoating violence to seeing the world with love and forgiveness. As discussed in essays 67 & 68, I think this is what being born again is about.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6) We need Christ to avoid falling into the temptations of participation in “righteous” violence. Without Christ, our lives become meaningless struggles until we inevitably die. Along life’s paths, however, there are fires of violence that tend to consume just about everyone.

Many Christians claim to be “born again,” but many continue to lead destructive lives. When describing how to distinguish true prophets from false prophets, Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16) In other words, we should make our determinations about who to follow based on the fruits of their activities. Similarly, Jesus told his disciples: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8) Shortly afterward, Jesus clarified, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) As discussed in previous essays, love is much more than feeling kindly towards someone – love motivates us to act.

Many false prophets have encouraged people to ignore the massive and unnecessary suffering of God’s animals on factory farms and elsewhere. Many of these Christians have interpreted certain passages, such as the dominion over creation granted by God to Adam in Genesis 1, as justifying humankind’s exploitation and abuse of animals. These interpretations strike me as self-serving, and, most importantly, I think that they deny the experience of the risen Christ, who, through the Holy Spirit, encourages us to be loving, compassionate, and forgiving. In other words, I think that, through the grace of God, we have the capacity to receive the Christian experience of God’s love for all Creation, if we allow ourselves to receive it. Many resist, however, because following Christ may include inconveniences, challenges, and risks. We may be called to renounce foods that we once enjoyed; we may be called to struggle socially and financially; and we may find ourselves ostracized or even persecuted for witnessing for Christ.

Go on to: Part 85: “There Is Neither Jew Nor Greek” (Gal 3:28)
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