End of the Line

In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” – Judges 21:25

The other night I was reading the Bible and I began to wonder if I had made a mistake.

I was telling my children the story of Samson and it wasn’t long before the violence in the story became overwhelming.  I tried to soften parts here and there with euphemisms but that only prompted questions from my kids. It was going to take a lot conversation to process the actions of Samson and his contemporaries.

The book of Judges is a contender for the most violent book of the Bible.  Each time the cyclical plot replays it seems to degrade a little more until finally ending in gore and anarchy.  We come to the end of Judges on this, Silent Saturday, the day immediately following one the day we remember one of the most violent stories in scripture.  Good Friday.

Good Friday services are typically attended by only a fraction of the Easter crowd.  I think the violence plays a part in that. On Good Friday we do not employ euphemism and we do not skip over unsavory sections.  We follow Christ who faced the cross with eyes, and arms, and heart wide open. The story of Christ’s crucifixion does not celebrate violence.  It confronts it with silent conviction. The death of Christ reveals human violence as the fruit of fear and the end product of nurtured anger. When greed, narcissism, bitterness, jealousy, and shame are allowed to lead us; we will find violence.

This is what we see in the book of Judges.  For example, it is Samson’s fear, his lust, his narcissism, and his bigotry that manifest as violence.

Like the book of Judges, Good Friday shows us where these truly deadly sins lead us.  To the death of love.

Yet Good Friday is not the end of love.  Tomorrow, we celebrate Easter and the triumph of love.  The roar of violence is silenced. The wounds of our soul find salve.  The tomb is empty.

Or as the Apostle Paul puts it: 

Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:34-39