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transformation of energy

March 26, 2011

It’s been a really long time since I last blogged…need to start getting back in the habit of throwing my thoughts out to the world through this medium.

I just got out of a three and a half week class on Foundations of Nonviolence.  To say the least, this class changed my life.  It took what was already a little spark in my heart and mind and created a raging fire that I cannot put out.  It seems like everything I talk about, every conversation I get into somehow morphs into a discussion about these principles I learned and how I want to start implementing them in my life.

I forget which reading it was in, but during the class we read a paper that spoke of an idea that’s now been floating in my heart for a few weeks.  Maybe it was a quote from MLK, or Gandhi, but it talked about absorbing the violence that is being directed towards you during a protest or a conflict and not allowing violence to come up out of your heart and return to the perpetrator of those violent actions.  This idea has been coming up in conversations with friends the past few days and I just can’t seem to stop thinking about it.  It feels like such a contrary thought within our society today.  Don’t react?  Don’t respond with violence?  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?  An eye for an eye, right?  How am I supposed to just absorb horrible things happening to me?

What I would like to propose is that for every action of hatred there is an equal and opposite reaction of love that we can tap into through God’s creative power that flows through us.  It’s the same kind of contrarian wisdom we’re given by Paul in the book of Romans, chapter 12

20But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.  21Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good.  (Amplified)

Wait, what?  Feed my enemy?  Show him/her compassion?  And that’s how I win?  That’s how I overcome evil?  That seems to be exactly what Paul is saying….well, that IS exactly what Paul is saying.  I believe that this is what Paul refers to again as the message of the cross in 1 Corinthians 1

18For the story and message of the cross is sheer absurdity and folly to those who are perishing and on their way to perdition, but to us who are being saved it is the [manifestation of] the power of God.  19For it is written, I will baffle and render useless and destroy the learning of the learned and the philosophy of the philosophers and the cleverness of the clever and the discernment of the discerning; I will frustrate and nullify [them] and bring [them] to nothing.  (Amplified)

What is the message of the cross?  I think part of it is that sacrifice is better than domination.  That while we were still hating him, Christ died for us.  To show us how much he loved us.  He didn’t have any guarantee that we would respond to that love, but he did it anyway.  We were his enemies.  And he loved us.  Not by forcing us into relationship, but by giving us an incredible view of what his love was capable of.  This love was able to conquer death and destruction and hatred.

And he calls us as his children to have the same kind of love for our enemies.  To take their hatred and violence, to absorb it, and to let it transform into the equal and opposite force before it comes back out of us.  We are able to endure suffering and pain and violence because we are able to transform that energy into life.  Into love.

That is the wisdom that looks so foolish to the world.  We are told that the way to overcome evil is through superior fire power.  That the only way to deal with a crazy lunatic (hello Ghaddafi…) is by blasting his country to hell.  Or that the only way to overcome the evil that we saw on September 11 is to show those terrorists who’s boss.

But the wisdom of Christ, of the cross, is that we are to show our enemies love.  To overcome evil with good.  What if, instead of bombing Afghanistan, Bush stood in front of the country and the world and publicly forgave those that caused the tragedy?  What if our response was not bombs, but an increased commitment to support the infrastructure of Afghanistan so that they would have no reason to hate us?  What would our world look like now?  What would Afghans have done had they received an outpouring of love and kindness from the United States, instead of a 10 year war?

How can we learn to absorb and then transform negative energy into positive energy?  Science says this is how the world works.  How do we apply the principles of science and the cross to our lives and our societies in order to create a more peaceful world?  In order to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth?

Thanks to Gil, Dustin, Bethany, Valene, JP, Tricia and my FoN class for helping me process these thoughts…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Andy permalink
    March 26, 2011 9:05 pm

    Just a question, how do you reconcile Divine mandate’s to conquer and overtake the land in the old testament in the light of nonviolent virtue?

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  2. March 26, 2011 10:43 pm

    I’m still learning and working through that question Andy. For me, it ultimately comes down to “does what is happening here line up with the picture of Jesus given in the New Testament”? I think of Colossians 2:9, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” I think of John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” With that being said, when I see something in the OT that seems to contradict the picture of God revealed through Jesus, I have to hold tightly to the Jesus picture and interpret the OT picture through him. I’m not a theologian…not one bit…but I have to assume that there is another way of looking at the OT scripture when it doesn’t seem to reconcile with the revelation of Jesus. I’ve been really impressed with the way that Greg Boyd deals with these kinds of questions on his blog http://www.gregboyd.org as well as in his podcasts from Woodland Hills Church. He’d be a good one to reference with this question in mind.

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    • Andy permalink
      March 27, 2011 12:58 am

      Looks like some great stuff on that blog Candance, I’ll have to check it out more. I thoroughly enjoyed your post, as nonviolence is a subject often brought up in my political philosophy classes. I too have a hard time reconciling the sovereignty of God in the OT with my understanding of Jesus. No amount of theology classes have seemed to help me much either.. haha. I’m not here to be critical or a devil’s advocate on your blog by the way, as I very much agree with what you have to say. I just sat through a seminar with Salim Munayarsomething (I have no idea how to pronounce or say his last name, but I’m aware you have some connection with him) where he presented his theology of reconciliation in the light of the Christian Israeli and Palestine conflict; he too emphasizes the virtue of nonviolence within the Christian response because of the cross. It’s just frustrating, as I want to uphold nonviolence within the realm of the eternal and beautiful virtues, yet I cannot deny that God has used forms of violence for the purposes of fulfilling his will. It seems as if on one level, justice and violence are inseparable. That is not say it should be taken into our hands of course… except when by divine mandate? Ah. Head hurts.

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  3. Your Most Awesome Brother permalink
    March 30, 2011 5:19 pm

    As you know, I have started VLI and this term our intensives were on the Latter Prophets. Something that John Oswalt of Asbury Theological Seminary touched on was the fact that the “Day of the Lord” or the “Day of Judgment” never came as the Israelites expected. They were used to the “Day of the Lord” being something like the Exodus from Israel, the defeat of the Canaanites, or something similar where the Israelites were exalted above their pagan neighbors.

    It got to the point where the Israelites felt they were untouchable because the one true God was on their side, they had his temple in Jerusalem, and there was nothing anyone could do to oppose them. This was indeed a very pagan view of deities in which, as long as the correct ritual was completed, the gods would be sated and nothing bad would happen.

    Some of the latter prophets such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, Nahum, etc. really pissed off the Israelites by constantly proclaiming the “Day of the Lord” as a day of the destruction of the temple, the overthrow of the physical kingdom of God, and the demise of Israel into exile. God didn’t care about their ritual in the temple, instead he wanted their undivided attention and he flat out said “If you don’t give me your attention, I will forcibly obtain your attention.”

    This theme of the “Day of the Lord/Day of Judgment” being different than we envision it is perfectly reconcilable in light of the revolutionary way that Christ came as a subversive force rather than an overthrow of the Romans and the restoration of Israel to power. So it actually aligns with what you are talking about quite nicely.

    While interpreting the Old Testament in light of Christ is a necessary hermenutical task for applyingthe Old Testament, we have to be careful to respect what God was doing in the Old Testament before the Messianic concept was even revealed. God DID use violence to establish earthly kingdoms as a part of his plan, and he DID use violence to correct the Israelites. He did–it is inescapable. While it is messy for us to say that God is for non-violence except when violence is necessary (and we don’t like messy concepts in theology or ethics), it may be that we have to accept that there is a place for violence in God’s plan (e.g. Prov. 16:4 The Lord has made everything for his own purposes, even the wicked for a day of disaster.)

    God without justice (perfect justice–giving people what they deserve) is a God incapable of mercy. He has to have both. And it sucks that it is hard to understand. John Wimber probably said it best, that we have to “Live in the tension.” 🙂

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