The Murder Of A Lawmaker
A few weeks ago, something happened in the United Kingdom that was absolutely touching. A member of parliament (MP), described by many as a good man, was brutally killed in office. He was stabbed multiple times at his constituency surgery by a 25-year old British man of Somali descent. The young man was arrested and later charged with murder and the preparation of terrorist attacks.
The story became even more touching when, in response to the violent act, the family of the murdered MP issued within hours a statement pleading with the public for calm. They said, “We ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all. This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness”.
The family’s reaction got me thinking that if people of the world who fall victim to human cruelty can show restraint, those who have come to know the love of God should be capable of greater restraint. The Bible teaches that Christians know the love of God. The book of First John for instance says, “we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
I don’t mean Christians should in the name of love think that murderers and other perpetrators of evil need not be brought to account. Neither do I think they ought to run and embrace a person whom they know seeks to do them harm. I believe, instead, that because Christ showed self-control and taught it, the lives of His followers can be greatly impacted by His example. The disciples of the Master Teacher are for this reason best equipped to overcome ill-feelings when they are wronged.
In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:39). A slap on the cheek was an act of violence and an insult in Jesus' days as it is today. It may stand for all injuries. Jesus didn’t mean that one should invite a repetition of the violence they've suffered, but that they should endure it and suffer another assault rather than retaliate. He was introducing the law of Christ. There is such a thing as the law of Christ. It is the covenant under which God's people live in the Christian age (Galatians 6:2, 1 Corinthians 9:21, James 1:25). It was to come into effect at Jesus’ death on the Cross and be promulgated from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). Prophet Isaiah predicted it saying that “out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). It is based on the principle of love (Matthew 5:44). It leaves no room for personal justice or retaliation.
To be sure, Christians are not to return violence with violence. The Master never exemplified such behaviour. Nowhere in the New Testament is it written that Jesus became aggressive when He was verbally abused or tortured during His crucifixion. We rather learn from the gospel account that He felt sorry for His murderers and prayed that God would grant them mercy when they penitently turned to Him which some of them did in Acts 2 (Luke 23:34, see Acts 2:37). The apostle Peter later said that “when He was reviled, [He] did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).
Christians feel empowered to practice self-control by Jesus’ example. They also find motivation in the commitment to becoming Christlike that they made upon deciding to follow the Lord. And Peter made it clear that temperance is an integral part of the Christian character. Second Peter 1:6 says, “giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge SELF-CONTROL, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (emphasis, CC).
As hard as the practice of this admonition may be, we need to recognize that it is a demand from our Lord. But divine demands are not burdensome for those who love God (1 John 5:3). Furthermore, we need to accept that by allowing self-control to develop within us we shape our character to the point of having Christ formed in us (Galatians 4:19). One of the reasons God calls people to Himself through the gospel is for them “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
In 2 Timothy 2:20, the apostle Paul distinguished vessels of honour from vessels of dishonour and went on to say in verse 29 that “if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” For us to be able to communicate effectively the great value of the gospel to future generations, we need to become vessels filled with the Christian character. And one of the distinguishing traits of the Christian character is self-control.