We have sinned by participating in acts of violence
Submitted by Rev. Roger Scott Powers
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd
with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to
Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Reflection: The obvious villain in this story is Judas. He sells out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. He leads an armed mob to the Garden of Gethsemane and betrays Jesus with a kiss.
The disciple who tries to defend Jesus by taking up the sword (identified as Simon Peter in John’s gospel) doesn’t fare much better. Jesus reprimands him: “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
The remaining disciples appear to watch passively and then flee to save their own necks. Rather than offer Jesus their support and solidarity, they choose to desert him.
Where do you see yourself in this story? At some point in your life, have you, like Simon Peter, participated in direct physical violence—against a national enemy, against a friend or neighbor, or against a family member? Have you, like Judas, ever betrayed someone or contributed to some injustice? Or have you been more like one of the other ten disciples—a passive observer, standing on the sidelines, who would rather not get involved?
Wherever you and I see ourselves, as US Christians living in the richest, most powerful country in the world, we must confess our complicity in the violence and injustice that is done in our name—both at home and abroad.
Action: Read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and/or his Riverside Church speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” Then make a list of the ways you have participated in, or failed to respond to, violence and injustice in the world.
Prayer: Forgive us, O Lord, for the ways we have participated directly or indirectly in violence and injustice. Give us the courage to withdraw our consent and cooperation from systems of oppression, and to engage instead in constructive ministries of justice, healing, and reconciliation. Amen.
Rev. Roger Scott Powers is pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque. He has worked with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship for many years. He is also co-editor of a 640-page encyclopedia of nonviolent action entitled Protest, Power, and Change.
This year’s Path of Peace reflections are based on the Five Affirmations to Guide the Peacemaking Witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Writers were recruited to help us explore the following affirmations as each week of A Season of Peace unfolds:
- Peacemaking is essential to our faith.
- We have sinned by participating in acts of violence.
- We reclaim the power of nonviolent love.
- We commit to the study and practice of nonviolence.
- We will practice boldly the things that make for peace.
Each author writes Monday–Friday, beginning with the first affirmation and ending with the fifth. The authors represent a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts, and each week presents a new ‘voice’ to walk you through the affirmations. The weekend devotions, written by the editor, also reflect the five affirmations. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 3, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 1.