Over the last few weeks our screens have been filled by terrible images of violence from the Middle East. Grief stricken Israeli families trying to come to terms with loved ones taken from them in the most horrific manner. Equally grief stricken Palestinians cradling their lifeless children in the bombed out ruins of their city. I am not seeking to comment on who is right and who is wrong in this conflict, but I have been reflecting on the whole issue of violence and counter violence. A shockingly violent act is committed and very often an equal and opposite act is carried out. It is in some ways a perfectly understandable response. The problem is, however, that it very quickly spirals into a cycle of violence. Blinded by pain two parties lash out at each other and very soon the innocent get caught up. This doesn’t just happen at national or global level, but at personal level as well. Relationships become toxic as pain is inflicted and revenge is sought. Innocent people in the family get caught up and are forced to choose sides. Everyone acting out of their pain and no-one being clear headed enough to step back. The question is, how can the pain be diffused and the cycle broken?
One man who showed the way was Gordon Wilson. In 1986 he was to be found cradling his dying daughter after an IRA bomb was detonated at the war memorial in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. Within hours of his death he stated publicly that he bore no ill will towards her killers and he would not seek revenge. Apparently the Protestant paramilitaries were so convicted by his courage that they decided not to launch a revenge attack.
Jesus also showed the way. As he hung on the cross he was surrounded by a crowd that mocked him at every turn. He could have raged back at them in fury. Instead he simply said, “Father forgive them”. He returned hatred with love and because of that love literally millions of people over the centuries have experienced the powerful forgiving love of God and the ability to forgive others. They have been set free!
Maybe you are someone who is suffering great emotional pain. You have been deeply wronged and no justice seems possible. The pain of it all seems so heavy, almost unbearable. Jesus would have understood that feeling as would Gordon Wilson. The difference between the two men is that Jesus can lift that burden from you and set you free. He can enable you to let go.