During the Man Up 2012 Conference, hip-hop artist and teacher shai linne (The Attributes of God) moderated a panel discussion surrounding the question, “What does it mean to man up?” On the panel were shai linne’s wife Blair, Pastor John Onwuchekwa, PRo, and Pastor Leonce Crump.
I have to admit something, shai linne’s thoughts on revenge and “asking for forgiveness later,” while a joke was definitely understood by me (and a majority of people in the room, it seems). We “get” the response of Jacob’s sons. Actually, to take it further, even if Jacob had reacted exactly like his sons had, we’d still get it. I have a nine year-old daughter. If anything heinous were ever to happen to her, I’d either 1) quickly dispatch the perpetrator to hell or 2) I’d spend a great deal of time plotting my revenge like Gerard Butler in Law Abiding Citizen and “make it count” down the road. Revenge, it seems, is something that resides just below the surface in all of us.
While I am by no means a pacifist, I do wonder what this says about men, especially Christian men, who “get” this, myself included. I found myself bristling when John Onwuchekwa suggested that the reaction of Jacob’s sons was in any way an overreaction. To me, it seemed like a legitimate response.
But, Jesus calls us to a different way of life, doesn’t he?
And there’s the rub.
Jesus calls us to a path of both responsibility and peace. Christians are called to be peacemakers, yet how do we balance a desire for justice with a “turn the other cheek” mentality? Do we turn the other cheek for ourselves or on behalf of others, also? How do we achieve both justice and reconciliation?
I freely admit, I have no answers on the topic. For the better part of this semester I have been wrestling with the notion of forgiveness due to my graduate studies considering the works of Bishop Desmond Tutu (No Future Without Forgiveness) and Miroslav Volf (The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World). When I think about my own passivity I also cannot neglect my call to bring peace to others. While I have a desire for deep justice, I cannot deny my proclivity to go overboard and essentially play God. If a man raped my daughter, I imagine I would kill that man and likely his parents for raising a man who became a rapist. In my mind, the parents would be implicated in their son’s sins.
Maybe that’s why it’s wrong. We image God by our desire for justice, but given that our imaging has been marred by sin, we are wholly incapable of reacting to injustice in a purely Biblical way. Thus, we’re left with a huge question in regards to the matter: How do imperfect people reject passivity, cry out for and work towards justice, and do both without overcompensating because of our sin?
Could you forgive someone who sexually assaulted your family member?
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