My Name Is Marshall, and I Am a Sinner

by | May 28, 2015 | 7 Peacemakers

bird1_cropBlessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).
Nothing could delight an enemy of God more than the growing identification of Christianity with violence.  Reason cannot unravel the contradiction of claiming allegiance to Christ and promoting violence.
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, and forgive not just seven times but seventy times seven.  He sealed the teaching by the doing, submitting to religious and state violence in his passion and crucifixion.  While they arrested him, he restored the severed ear of a captor’s slave and insisted on no violence on his behalf.  He returned after death, showing that indeed violence does not get the last word, and while he obviously had the power to avenge his persecutors, he did not.
How many qualifications to our faith does it take to say we follow him and yet support making war, condemning other religions and other Christians to hell for disagreeing with us, keeping the poor in poverty with legal loopholes and a few good business policies, torturing the animals we eat from birth to slaughter, raping the environment, blaming the victims of every kind of abuse, fighting harder for our right to bear arms than for everyone’s right to decent health care, and taking an eye for an eye and a life for a life with our executions?
Meanwhile, Jesus commissioned his followers to go into all the world and spread good news of God’s love by telling his story and how it changed ours forever into stories of peace, shalom, wholeness, and connectedness.  How are we supposed to do that if we have to issue a thousand apologies for our violence before we get started?
The root of the term, “religion,” is the Latin, ligare, the same root for “ligament,” connective tissue.  We don’t need to abandon religion.  We need to restore it.  What we have now are institutions so compromised to our baser violent instincts that they too often disconnect us from others so are not really religious at all.
Ah, “our baser violent instincts.”  Let us pause and ponder that phrase.  Our baser violent instincts.  Mine.  Yours.
Given who we are, violent by nature, maybe Jesus anticipated the need to issue a thousand apologies before we tell the good news.  Maybe to get to this point Christendom did not need two thousand years to wage Crusades, support slavery, and incarcerate every other black man in the name of family values.  Maybe the imperative to apologize is in our DNA, Christian or not.
Maybe any good news worth telling must begin with a confession that I who bring it am a sinner, that I have probably sinned against you to whom I bring it, and the only hope is not in me but in the One I’m here to talk about and serve.
AA meetings have more spiritual power than most church services because everyone introduces themselves with , “My name is _____, and I am an alcoholic.”  Well, my name is Marshall, and I may be a teetotaler, but I’m a sinner, prone to violence.  Nevertheless, listen to my story.  Let me love you.  There’s a Spirit working on me.  It’s flying your way.

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