In the 1980s, "What would Jesus do?" became a global slogan. Since then, Christians everywhere have asked this question and placed it on countless wristbands, posters, and billboards as a motivation to follow the example of Jesus Christ. This week, the question takes on a completely different tone. Yesterday, while Christians in Egypt celebrated Palm Sunday, two suicide bombers detonated themselves among the crowds killing 44 people and wounding many others.
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
Once again, the world—especially Christ-followers—are shocked and saddened that a senseless religious ideology killed many of our brothers and sisters in such a violent way. In this context, the “What would Jesus do?” question takes on a deeper and more somber meaning. How would Jesus respond to such violence?
WE ALREADY HAVE THE ANSWER
We don’t have to wonder what Jesus would do, because He already showed us the way. This is the week we remember the greatest act of senseless violence: When the Son of God was arrested, convicted in a mock trial, tortured within an inch of His life, and left to die on a cross. It was precisely while hanging on the bloody cross that Jesus of Nazareth gave us the perfect example of how to respond to unjust violence.
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
— Luke 23:34
He said this prayer for the Romans who tortured Him and nailed Him to the cross, to the Jews who mocked Him and cried out, “Crucify Him!” and to the thief who died next to Him without repenting. I believe Jesus also prayed this prayer for every persecutor of the Church yet to be born, including those in Egypt who would kill in our own houses of worship.
VENGEANCE AND JUSTICE
Our flesh calls for vengeance. "More bombs and missiles!" At our best, we cry for justice. "Bring these men to trial and give them the justice they deserve!" Yet, Christ’s voice calls for radical forgiveness, "for they do not know what they are doing."
Years ago, I heard a similar plea from a missionary to Nigeria. She stated,
The only answer to religious violence against
Christians is radical, unconditional forgiveness.
Many may die before the perpetrators learn their violence only strengthens our resolve to forgive.