How Do We Respond To Violence In Love?

by Christine Sine


How do we respond in the face of violence? This is the question that revolves in my mind as I watch the news coming out of Gaza and Ferguson and hear about the looting of the Ebola clinic in Sierra Leone. I think of it too as I read the comments that are like violence towards the Williams family and our memories of Robin Williams. And of course it is foremost in my mind when I think of the vandalism we have suffered on Camano.

Responding in love when others despitefully use us and others we care for is not easy. Acting in love when we are afraid or insecure is even harder. Insecurity breeds anger and violence resulting in a vicious cycle of hate, turmoil and yet more violence. Sometimes we are indifferent to the images of violence because when we watch them on TV or the internet they seem more like a game then reality.

Tragically we all tend to respond not with love to any form of atrocity or violence. Our natural response is “fight or flight”. In other words we either want to run away from violence and pretend it is not happening or we want to join in. We fight violence with violence.

But what is the Christian response?

I think that the Christian response needs to begin with listening, not with action. Listening and giving full attention to those who have been victims or perpetrators of violence means that we do not run from it. We do not pretend that violence is not happening and we do not pretend that it does not involve us. We recognize its horror and we gird up or spirits to take a stand.

We need to listen to the pain and the grief that creates violence, listen to the stories that tell of the results of violence and listen to the stories of how God’s reconciling love can and has been shown in the midst of that. We also need to listen to the hopes and dreams of the victims of violence. So often these reflect the cry for a more just and equitable society in which peace, equality and justice is shown to all.

Then we need to listen to the responses of our own spirits. Deep, heartfelt listening makes it impossible for us not to respond. Our hearts and our spirits start to cry out for justice to happen. Sometimes we start to recognize how our own actions, or lack of actions have resulted in the violence we see. Sometimes we get in touch with the violence within our own souls and need to seek forgiveness and healing.

I love the work of groups like Christian Peacemaker Teams which is committed to work and relationships that:

  • Honor and reflect the presence of faith and spirituality
  • Strengthen grassroots initiatives
  • Transform structures of domination and oppression
  • Embody creative non-violence and liberating love

Creative non-violence and liberating love are responses far different from those we usually see to violence. A Christian response to the victims and perpetrators of violence is a form of hospitality. By responding out of love not hate or indifference to, we welcome a stranger who is often very difficult for us to embrace. And in so doing we can often do find that we are embracing and welcoming Christ into our midst.

So my question for today is:

How are you responding to the violence you have heard about in this last week? and Where do those responses come from?

You might like to meditate on this prayer as you think about this.

God is love,
May this love take root in our hearts
And overflow.
Love does no wrong to another.
May God’s love spread like healing balm,
Wherever there is violence.
Love never celebrates injustice.
May it fall like gentle rain,
On thirsty ground,
And bring peace where trouble reigns.
Love binds us together.
May it reach out through us to neighbours,
And draw us into God’s eternal family.

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Daniel O'Neill, MD September 11, 2014 - 6:15 pm

Christine, Appreciate your thoughts on this topic. Caring in Conflict is part of our new call for papers at the new Christian Journal for Global Health If you or others would be interested in writing a piece or presenting research findings on a Christian approach to conclict or violence, we’d welcome the contribution by January 2015.

Christine Sine September 11, 2014 - 6:45 pm

Thanks Daniel. I will certainly consider this and let my friends know too

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