An Act of Terror
In the midst of Saul being anointed, and then announced, as the first king over Israel, he faces the first trial of leadership: what do you do as a leader in response to attacks upon your people? In this case, the attack took the form of an act of terror perpetrated by Nahash that Ammonite. In the words of my Bible translation, Nahash had been "severely oppressing" the tribes of Gad and Reuben...two groups that lived in the land beyond the Jordan (on the frontier of Israel's territory). How did he accomplish that oppression? He gouged out everyone's right eye. No one in the land had more than one eye. A remarkable act of terror and oppression. Some escaped and fled to a city in order to take refuge. Even when they sued for peace, the "token" that Nahash demanded of them was that everyone have their right eye gouged out. I am sure that being present during an act of terror is beyond horrific. Anticipating more horror only increases my dread and sorrow.
This morning, I am blogging in the wake of this reading, the outbreaking violence of the Passion of Jesus in John (18), and the passages of Psalm 83 ("God, don't be silent! Don't be quiet or sit still, God, because -look!--your enemies are growling; those who hate you are acting arrogantly. They concoct crafty plans against your own people; they plot against people you favor." I am also writing with a heavy heart as news reports of the bombings at the Boston Marathon continue to scroll across our television screen and ping in our online newsfeeds.
I was intending to write this morning about the contrast between Saul and Pilate...two men empowered in unique ways and called upon to either impose or restore "order" to their communities--sadly, with both being pressured to employ violence to achieve that end in the face of intentional, terrifying provocation. Now, I find my attention and prayers drawn toward seeking consolation and protection for the people of Boston (including some dear friends who were very near the site of the blasts and who, thank God, are unharmed)...and for the people of Gad and Reuben....and for Jesus.
Terror comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be as intimate as a personal betrayal, and it can be perpetrated on a grand, even global scale; but its ability to unnerve and overwhelm can be countered. That counter, though, is not through violence or revenge-neither of those outlets lead to any form of justice or true recovery and healing. Terror can only be overcome by the acts of mercy, consolation and reconciliation that we tender to each other as we care for, pray for and hope for the well being of others. We have to be wary of impulsively resorting to calls to revenge, or in assuming triumphal postures of defiance. Neither of those bring life, only more death.
What we can do, when violence looms, is answer the call of Christ to strive for justice and peace. Even in the face of terror, Jesus maintained his witness to the love of the Father for the world (despite the world's rejection of that love). May we, as we mourn the dead and console the injured and traumatized, keep open the eyes of mercy and maintain soft hearts that strive for peace in a broken world.