Violence seems to be the defining characteristic of living in America. The first European settlers here came as the froth of the churning religious violence that had gripped Europe. Then came the violent appropriation of lands for European colonists. With them came slaves, forced by violence to live and labor in a new land. The United States was formed by a violent rebellion, and expanded westward through the purchase of lands and violence. Eventually, the slaves were freed through one of the bloodiest wars in history, but were shortly subdued again through concerted terror campaign of violent suppression. And the history of expansion, extraction, and extinction continued through the atom bomb and even to our day.
We live in one of the most violent developed nations on Earth. Yesterday we saw horrific attacks on Republican representatives in the morning, and another horrific attack on UPS workers by one of their own. Young men of color die every day to gun violence. Murder claims so many people in our nation every day, it has become fair to ask if we are indeed a civilized nation, or rather simply a nation of people born and bred to violence, who turn, like the movie heroes we love to watch so much, to violence to solve all our problems.
Our Lord tells his disciples, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves…” Jesus does not want the disciples to be unaware: they will wield power as the governments of the world do. They are not to resort to violence, or employ it in their work. The wolves will hunt and pursue them from town to town, and often will not receive them. But the command remains—“Go.”
This command still holds for all of Jesus’ disciples: we are still sheep, who are hopefully as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Violence has no place for a disciple of Jesus, because he sends us with the message of peace and the work of healing. That is the mission of Jesus, and we must be people who tell the truth and make peace.