One day about a year or two ago, my attention was captured by a ceramic piece. The thing that struck me about the image portrayed was the soldier who was nailing Jesus to the Cross. This man looked as if he was nailing two pieces of wood together; intent on doing the job. Although I had seen this ceramic piece many times before, I had never given any thought to the soldier in this scene.
On this particular day though, I couldn’t help but wonder about who this man was and how he could do such a thing. I thought, “How horrible! How could anyone do that to another human being?” Then the more I sat there and looked at this piece, a number of questions came to mind. Was this job of the man’s choosing or was he forced into it? What was his life experience and what led him to this particular moment? I imagined his heart had to be hardened in order to do the job he was doing. Was he devoid of all feeling of concern for others, though? Did he have a family? Was he loved? And did he love others?
As I sat there, after some time, I found myself thinking about some of the stories in the news and of current day perpetrators of violence. What happened to them along the way? Were they not also created in God’s image? What had they experienced that led them to embrace such ways?
This week, I find myself asking similar questions. I wonder how any person(s) could justify treating another person in such a way; beheading them or burning them alive. I wonder what happened to these people, and those leading them, that they have arrived at a place where their hearts allow them to perpetrate such acts?
I wonder…Are they so caught up in “the cause” that they have been blinded to the atrocity of their actions? Are they willingly committing these acts? Have they been coerced or misled? Or forced through fear for their own lives and those of their loved ones to join “the cause”? How did they get to this point? What has their experience been? In what kind of environment did they grown up and live?
When we look at the world today, there’s so much violence and wrongdoing that occurs. It’s upsetting and it can be all too easy to write off the perpetrators, dismissing them as lowly scum; hateful and vile. However, when we do this, we are playing into evil’s hand.
I know some might say, “Who cares!?!” thinking that the perpetrators deserve no consideration. However, I find that in asking these questions, I’m able to hold on to the truth of the matter. The perpetrators are human beings too. We all come into the world the same way; a clean slate…created in God’s image…capable of all that is good. Something or someone must have changed that for them, at one time or repeatedly. It is with these questions and this realization that I am able to feel compassion more than anger and disgust.
And, it is only then, that my heart is moved to pray for the perpetrators. For, while I may not be able to change the actions of others, nothing is impossible for God.
Please join me in praying…
For the victims of violence and terrorism, and for those who have embraced hatred and violence, that God may soften their hearts and change their ways, we pray to the Lord…