Again, “We adore God Who is love, who in Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, Who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins, and through the power of this love, rose from the dead and lives in His Church. We have no God other than Him” (Pope Francis, 6/21/14).
Suppose that Jesus when the going-got-tough, lethally tough, abandoned the Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies and in its place chose the way of violence and enmity? Could the imitation of Christ, could following the Way of Christ and the Will of the Father as revealed by Jesus, could “love as I have love,” ever be logically interpreted as a Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies? Of course not, such an interpretation would amount to an absurdity. The Way of Jesus and the Will of the Father would then be a way of justified violence in enmity. All those who engaged in justified violence on any scale would then be following Jesus, imitating Jesus, “loving as Jesus loved.” So why is it and how is it, that even though when the going-got-tough, lethally tough, and Jesus did not abandon the Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies, 95% of the Christians for the last seventeen hundred years, has interpreted that fact as communicating that “justified” violence is consistent with the Will of the Father and the Way of Jesus?
Employing the words of the Catholic Biblical scholar, Rev. John L. McKenzie, we noted in the last two FAST Food Helpings that, “Jesus experienced nothing that is not part of the human condition. And he thus placed his achievements within the reach of all men…. He demands nothing that is not within the reach of every man of every age. The deliverance of man is not to be accomplished by an act, which can be shared by only a few.”
If Jesus had abandoned the Way of Nonviolent Love of all when the going-got-tough, He would have certainly “placed his achievements within the reach of all men” and “demanded nothing that is not within the reach of every man of every age,” assuring thereby that “the deliverance of man is not to be accomplished by an act, which can be shared by only a few.” Followers of Jesus, under the rubric of “loving as Jesus loves,” could then kill one or thousands of people, and even each other, as long as it was justified by some standard of morality, and thereby be sharing in the deliverance of humanity from evil, sin and death, and from the wickedness and snares of Satan.
Redemptive violence would be the default position in the Way of Jesus and in the Will of the Father as revealed by Jesus. Justified violence would become, by the example of God Incarnate, Jesus, the fallback position in the Way of Jesus and in the Will of the Father as revealed by Jesus, when the going-got-tough. The suffering and/or death a person might have to endure in attempting to justifiable kill other human beings would then be redemptive. Redemptive justifiable violence model on Jesus would then always be an option available to Christians when the going-got-tough. It would be redemptive violence because Jesus is here to save humanity and He then would have established justified violence incarnationally as His acceptable default position. Therefore when Christians engage in it they would be participating in an act that is a manifestation of Divine love and that works for the deliverance, the redemption, of humanity.
But, Jesus did not abandon the Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies when the going-got-tough and put in its place an always available fallback option of justified violence as the Father’ Will and Way. He did not! When the Christian abandons Jesus’ Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies for “justifiable” violence, he or she is not following Jesus, is not loving as Jesus’ loves, is not sharing in an act of Divine love whose fruits will be “the deliverance of man.”
So salvation cannot be not the result of Jesus’ merely suffering and dying. He could have suffered and died trying to kill His enemies. The issue is how and why He suffered and died and the intrinsic and necessary relationship, indeed unbreakable union, between the how and the why.
A means that cannot produce the end for which it was chosen is an illusionary means. The means, which God, incarnated in Jesus, chooses to live amidst the incomprehensible vicissitudes of history and to die within history, is the means of Nonviolent Love of all, friends and enemies in all circumstances. Since God’s purpose in becoming human in Jesus is to save each and every person from evil, sin and death, and to bring all His beloved sons and daughters into an eternal Communion of Love and Peace with Him, and since the means He chose to accomplish this end through Jesus was the Way of Nonviolent Love of all, friends and enemies in all circumstance, even in the face of His being tortured and murdered, then it is the Nonviolent Love of all that saves, not mere suffering and death—and most certainly not “justifiable” violence.
If as Pope Francis states above, “We have no God other than Him,” then, we have no other way to Him and no other way to be faithful to Him other than His Way.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
(To be continued)