Looking through the Lens of Jesus
January 13, 2021
Lord, we are your people
the sheep of your flock.
Heal the sheep who are wounded.
Touch the sheep who are in pain.
Clean the sheep who are soiled.
Warm the lambs who are cold.
Help us to know the Father’s love
through Jesus the shepherd
and through the Spirit.
Help us to lift up that love,
and show it all over this land.
Help us to build love on justice
and justice on love.
Help us to believe mightily,
Renew us that we may help renew
the face of the earth.
This prayer, author unknown, was the closing of my morning devotions, drawn from one of my favorite resources. It struck me as I have wrestled with the horrible events of last week, and the threats of additional insurrection and violence that are all too real as we begin 2021. I found it a grounding and uplifting call to remember who we are in Christ.
Perhaps that’s most important for we who live as a part of the Body of Christ in the world right now; to ground ourselves in the center of our faith – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, our good shepherd. When anxiety is high and division is deep, when we feel isolated and drained, we risk losing sight of the shepherd, and failing to discern his familiar voice.
So now, more than ever, people of faith must cling to Jesus – and shape our words and actions according to what the Gospels teach us about Jesus’ call and example for us. Many of us are confused about how to speak and live in a time of great upheaval.
One thing is crystal clear when we look at the world through the “lens” of Jesus: Violence has no place among Jesus followers.
I know well that those who want to self-justify violent acts can draw from any number of passages in the Bible. When we look at scripture through the lens of Jesus, however, such appeals to the word fall apart. Even as he is about to be unjustly arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus rebuked a disciples’ wielding of the sword with the words, “No more of this!” and healed the enemy who had been wounded (Luke 22:49-51). Jesus makes an even stronger contrast between the violence of this world and the call to something different when confronted by Pilate in the Gospel of John:
“If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
These episodes accompanied Jesus’ approach to the cross, where the violence of this world was on full, graphic, appalling display. Jesus calls us to a different way.
This rebuke of violence must be evenly applied. Just as we have been shocked and dismayed by the death and injury alongside the destruction of property during last summer’s eruptions of violence around racial tension, so are we shocked and dismayed by what happened at the Capitol a week ago. It is a human (sinful) tendency to justify violence when it is waged in alignment with our world-view and condemn it when it is waged in opposition to our point of view. But followers of the crucified Savior should ALWAYS be appalled by violence – and oppose it. Our worldview must be shaped by the lens of Jesus to see every life as cherished by God, bearing the imprint and handiwork of our creator.
That is why I found it especially reprehensible that Christian slogans and symbols were prominently displayed among the crowd that enacted violence at the Capitol. It is not only dangerous, but heretical, idolatrous and blasphemous to invoke the name of Jesus in the waging of violence. As we recoil from the co-opting of our faith under false pretense in dark episodes of history such as the Crusades and the Holocaust, so too must we denounce the current use of a false Christian narrative to enable violence.
We have all heard the threats of additional armed protest and acts of insurrection – what are we to do? Peering through the lens of Jesus at a world so broken, Christians can begin by echoing Jesus’ call to “Put your sword back into its sheath” (John 18:11). As we pray the words that began this post, so our actions must follow:
Help us to lift up [the Father’s] love and show it all over this land.
Help us to build love on justice and justice on love.
Our words, our prayers and our actions matter in this season. May you be steadfast in your commitment to denounce violence and work for peace this day, and always.
PS – No doubt some will ask if violence is ever justified…and that deserves a separate conversation, one the Church has wrestled with for millennia. When we look through the lens of Jesus, we can be sure that violence always grieves the heart of God, and is opposed to the way Jesus makes known.