It seems that we live in times where murder is all too familiar. Not just the physical violent type associated with ISIS/ISIL in Iraq/Syria, the Taliban attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai or any one of some of the gruesome types we see or hear about almost daily in our justice system (I’d prefer not to mention recent cases specifically to avoid giving publicity to the perpetrators or their gruesome acts). There is a much wider perspective on murder that includes lying intentionally to destroy the reputation of another, character assassination or even stonewalling and ignoring someone as if they have no value. All of these types of murder have one thing in common – they seek to eliminate another human being from existence either physically or socially. While one may appear worse than the other, they have the same intended effect on the spirit of the person – destruction.
As someone who has very recently experienced slander, lying and stonewalling (thankfully not the physical kind of murder), I have been spending some time reflecting on many questions surrounding such extreme violence from one human being to another (yes, non-physical murder is violent). Why would someone want to eliminate another person made in the image of God? What would cause a person to so harm another as to either take their life or irreparably damage it? How could someone treat another like they don’t even exist? How can I make sense of any of this? As is often the case, I find the experience of Jesus helpful in addressing these and other questions surrounding this difficult topic. Perhaps His life can give us a new perspective on murder.
Before digging into this, it is important to point out the obvious that there are many motives and purposes that drive a murderer to act. Some common ones are greed, lust, jealousy, revenge or hunger for power. However, when we are talking about pre-meditated, intentional actions to eliminate another human being is there a deeper, common thread? At the risk of over-generalizing, can we boil it down to a common theme or themes? In Canada, there is a current controversial debate occurring about terrorism and looking for “root causes” in the mind of a terrorist (or murderer). While some of the motivation for this search seems to be to avoid holding the perpetrator accountable, there may be some value in exploring this. However, even if there is a common thread or root cause at work that doesn’t mean we then excuse them from experiencing the consequences of their actions (this topic is for another post at another time).
So then, to summarize Jesus’ impact on those who would eventually conspire to murder him (religious hierarchy), what can we observe about him that may have caused such a significant and extreme response?
- He had a direct relationship with God the Father and taught that this was available to all who desired it.
- He said that the physical temple in Jerusalem ultimately would not be the required place to worship God and in fact would eventually be destroyed.
- He aggressively confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day, calling them snakes and whitewashed tombs and openly instructing others to obey their teachings of the Torah but not to imitate their way of life.
- He allowed others to call him Lord, the Messiah and the Son of the living God, clearly accepting being considered a living deity or God in the flesh.
In short – His existence was a direct threat to theirs.
I propose that this is the root cause, the deep motivation of someone to commit a violent act (physical or not) to eliminate another person’s life, personhood or reputation such that they are invisible to others.
If you are reading this and have or are currently experiencing this in your own life, take heart as this realization takes root in your mind and spirit. Your presence, your existence is so significant that you are a threat to the person who is trying to eliminate you or your memory from the face of the earth. Regardless of what is happening to you in your current circumstance, do not allow your enemy to destroy you. Expand your spirit and influence in whatever situation you are in. Remember the words of Jesus as he stood in front of Pilate, bleeding and apparently humiliated:
“You have no power over me if it was not given to you from above” John 19:11
Jesus had already agreed with Pilate that he was the King of the Jews and the Son of God, that he had come into the world to proclaim truth and that His kingdom was not of this world. Combined with the warning he received from his wife following her dream, Pilate was rapidly coming to the conclusion that he was looking at Deity standing before him. So while it may have appeared to all watching that Pilate was about to pronounce an execution (murder) over a helpless victim, the victim was stating that in fact it was he that was in full control of the situation. Put another way, Jesus was fully present, fully empowered and had greater authority than Pilate. No wonder Pilate was terrified and wanted to release him.
This is the key to developing a new perspective on murder, especially the kind that attempts to destroy your reputation through lying, slander and back room plotting to bring you down. Do not retreat but instead go forward and expand your spirit. Take dominion of your circumstances and be even more visible in whatever environment you are in.
I close with a quote from Malala Yousafzai, the recent co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Malala is the young girl who the Taliban attempted to murder as she got off a school bus because she spoke out consistently about the right to education for girls as well as boys in Pakistan. Her existence was and is a threat to the existence of the Taliban and their oppression of others.
“If he [the Talib] comes, what would you do Malala? …If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there will be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others…with cruelty…you must fight others but through peace, through dialogue and through education…then I’ll tell him [the Talib] how important education is and that I even want education for your children as well… that’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”
This is someone in full control of the situation, regardless of what her murderer intends to do. Go forward and own your humanity and dignity. Continue to be a light carrier, knowing that you are a priceless treasure created in the image of God.