A good friend told me this week that her son participated in a protest in support of Black Lives Matter. There were others there, protesting against his group. The whole scene had become more than he could handle, so he started to leave. As he walked away he saw a sign that said “The 1619 Project is Fake History!” The sight of that sign made him angry, so he picked it up and ripped it apart, and threw it in the trash can. The makers of the sign saw him do this and called a police officer over and demanded that he be arrested on the spot.
The officer brought my friend’s son over to his squad car. He ran his identification and the two had a conversation. He didn’t really want to get arrested over a sign, and the officer didn’t seem very interested in arresting him for this act of defiance, but the crowd insisted that he was “violent” and had destroyed their property. Ultimately, the police officer let him go after having a conversation with him about how actions can incite violence and expressing a desire to keep everyone safe.
Ripping up a sign hardly seems violent, but actions do communicate messages. Violence begets violence. An angry mob could really have hurt my friend’s son, but the officer had the good sense to remove him from the situation, make a show of running his identification and having a stern conversation with him. The officer broke a cycle that could easily have become violent. He gave my friend’s son a chance to talk, to express his fury in words.
The disciples wanted to incite violence against the Samaritans for not welcoming Jesus, as Elijah once did. Jesus is not Elijah. Things have evolved since Elijah responded with violence. The Son of Man will break this cycle of violence by giving his life and forgiving his tormentors. He will not cause turmoil. He will not respond with violence.
My friend’s son was glad to not be arrested over some ripped up posterboard. The experience also solidified his resolve to approach his opposition peacefully. His actions, even if they were interpreted as “violent,” accomplished more than bodily harm ever could have. He had much to think about after this encounter. Perhaps those that argued for his arrest did, too.
We are a resurrection people. This means that our lives are ours only insofar as they seek the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is built on forgiveness, not violence. As troubling as our world is, and as hard as our lives have become, we are called to respond with love and forgiveness.