Sermon Commentary – Miroslav Volf
The below is the excerpt of Miroslav Volf from last week’s sermon.
My thesis is that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance. My thesis will be unpopular with many in the West, but imagine speaking to people, as I have, whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned, and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit.Your point to them: we should not retaliate? Why not? [What will ever keep them from retaliating?] I say this: the only means of prohibiting violence by us is to insist that violence is only legitimate when it comes from God. Violence thrives today, secretly nourished by the belief that God refuses to take the sword.It takes the quiet of a suburb for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence is a result of a God who refuses to judge. In a scorched land soaked in the blood of the innocent, that idea will invariably die, like other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind. If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end of violence, that God would not be worthy of our worship.Miroslav Volf paraphrase of book Exclusion & Embrace
I will never forget what one of my professors said during my class on War and Diplomacy. He said that he there cannot be both peace and justice to end a conflict of war. This is simply because peace requires forgiveness of debts unpaid and justice requires debts to be paid from the other side. Usually, in a conflict, human justice is carried out, leading to further death and destruction. Who wants peace that comes from forgiving someone for killing family, parents, and friends?
This is why peace is very hard to achieve after a brutal conflict. Memories remain after decades and hatred that can harbor in the minds of men, even after an initial peace may be achieved. Though, once revenge(justice) is carried out, the war continues and peace is lost.
This is the conflict we live in today. Even outside wars, it is hard for someone to forgive another and bring peace while leaving justice on the doorstep. Thankfully, we have a God that will bring ultimate justice and ultimate peace. Only with God can we truly forgive and love our enemies.
Romans 5:7-8 states:
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If we have a God that brings peace through love, we have the perfect example of laying down our right for revenge and to leave it to God. We have peace in knowing that God will hold each and everyone accountable and that He will judge righteously and fairly. As Paul continues in Romans 12:19,21 by stating:
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We can forgive because He first forgave us. We are all by nature deserving of wrath (Eph. 2:3) and if God could come down to forgive us, we can then forgive others. Be the light and the bearer of peace to those around us. We have security in knowing that God will judge everyone on the last day.
A final thought from Miroslav Volf. Do not attempt to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has experienced extreme hardship. It is easy to be in a peaceful life with no hardship and assume that forgiveness is easy. It may be for you, but it may be extremely difficult for others. I leave you all with this video from Corrie ten Boom in regards to forgiveness.
Corrie ten Boom on forgiving your enemies