By Ps Ho Wei Liang
“Violence should never be solved with peace.” These chilling words were from the unfinished manifesto of the self-radicalised Singaporean Protestant youth, who was arrested after making plans to physically attack members of the Muslim community in Singapore with a machete. When I first heard news of this, my immediate reaction was one of shock and sadness. I, alongside other Christians, am indeed thankful that the authorities were swift to act, and were successful in preventing a tragedy.
The ideology behind these words which promotes violence and revenge does not originate from the Bible. In fact, it is starkly at odds with our Christian faith and teaching; hatred and violence has never been the way of Christ our Lord. Indeed, when asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus affirmed that we are to love God with our all, but went on to say, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’” (Matt. 22:39). In other words, both commandments are equally important and work together to summarise all of God’s laws in the Bible.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, although a significant portion of Jews wanted Jesus to be a political and military Messiah—one who would overthrow their Roman oppressors and bring an end to their exile through violent revolution—Jesus rejected their way of violence. He began his first big public teaching by telling the Jewish crowd that it is the meek who will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5), and it is the peacemakers who are God’s true children (Matt. 5:9). He taught them to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them (Matt. 5:43-44). He refused violence (Matt. 26:51-52), and instead willingly suffered defeat on a Roman cross, so that he might defeat death and accomplish salvation for everyone who believes—even for those who crucified him.
Violence can be overcome with peace—that is, with the peace and love of Christ that is freely given to us, and fully embodied in his death on the cross. May we, as a church, fix our eyes on the Lord Jesus, and follow his example of cross-shaped, self-sacrificial love for our neighbours.