The Myth That Redemptive Violence is a Myth: Part 2
August 10, 2012 9 Comments
One of the ways we get discombobulated in the debate over whether or not violence is ever acceptable is that the definition of redemption that is used is often extremely narrow. The redemption people are talking about is the redemption that Jesus brought on the cross…nothing more, nothing less. I will say that is a really good standard to use. There is no greater love shown than that. It is the image of self-sacrifice and love.
There is more to redemption in scripture than the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Think about the story of Ruth for a moment. In the Old Testament book of Ruth we have the story of a woman whose husband died and she is left a widow. Being a widow makes her particularly vulnerable in the world she lived in. Judaism had regulations for people in this situation including Lev 19:9-10 that told the farmers to not harvest the edges of their field so the poor could glean the grain and Deut 25:5 gives us a regulation about the dead man’s closest relative (presumably brother) marrying her and continuing the bloodline of her first husband. This second regulation was known as redemption and the man who took on that role was the “kinsman redeemer”. Now, when we think about redemption we don’t often think about Ruth because we have come to see redemption as something that pertains solely to salvation and nothing more. We have limited the definition of redemption down and missed the full range of meaning in the Bible. There is more to redemption than ultimate salvation. The way the word for kinsman redeemer is “goel” which can mean anything from someone who redeems someone to someone who avenges a wrong done to someone else. In Ruth’s situation, redemption was very real and meaningful but had nothing to do with salvation. It had everything to do with bringing her justice, deliverance, full life, and rising up her status so that she would not be mistreated as a widow by those who would potentially take advantage of her vulnerability.
Now take the store clerk from the last post. She is an innocent bystander going about making a living, offering a service, etc. Here come the guys who wish to do her harm and someone sticks around to make sure she is protected and cared for. In the Old Testament, redemption has to do with deliverance, either from sin or from someone who is out to do you harm. Often in scripture redemption/deliverance is from humans/enemies. God often uses real people to bring about that deliverance (at times even in violent ways). Obviously, the difference between them and us is that God directly told them to do those things and we aren’t privy to that direct word of God.
Now, back to Jesus on the cross. I said there is nothing more loving or self-sacrificing than what Jesus did on the cross. When I think about my own ability to protect my family and loved ones I see it as completely loving and self-sacrificial. I don’t see it as coming from an attitude within me of breathing out murderous thoughts just waiting for someone to cross me so I can blast them. I believe there is a way for violence to be used in a way that is entirely loving and self-sacrificial because it puts one’s own life on the line order to make sure the innocent and helpless live to see another day.