WHAT DOES THE GOSPEL SAY ABOUT ACID ATTACKS?
As I write, this morning’s newspapers are headlining with a crime that is particularly horrifying and I think it is good to reflect on why we are horrified—as I think everyone is, or will be, when they read it.
A three-year-old toddler, sitting in his pushchair in a shop, had acid thrown over his face as his mother, helpless to stop the attack, screamed for her child. There would have been many tragedies this past weekend, as there are each and every day in this suffering world, so why is our attention drawn to the little boy?
I suppose it is because we can’t imagine how grown men could do that to a child. Four men have been arrested in connection with the crime. (No motives have been established and the toddler is now recovering at home after initial hospitalisation.) I wouldn’t be surprised if the police discover that it was vengeance attack on the father or another member of the family.
When vengeance is allowed to grow and find expression, we are capable of almost anything. Human history overwhelmingly illustrates that vengeance knows no bounds. Even Biblical history confirms the terrifying human capacity for inhuman behaviour when vengeance grows. A Hebrew poet exiled in cruel Babylon penned Psalm 37, which states:
“Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us—he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”
(Yes, Judaism as practiced in the OT era was vengeance-based and much of it still is today. So is Islam. No wonder we have an endless cycle of violence. Those who think it can be solved in a generation or less don’t understand the power of worldviews, which are usually generated by religion.)
Vengeance is at its worst when the powerful prey on the less powerful. That is why men in government are the most prolific murderers in history. Think of Stalin and Mao and Hitler; between them they killed vast numbers of the citizens of their own nations, with estimates running at over 100 million!
Looking at that, some people would say that the hierarchy of power is to blame and we need governments who believe in equality to do away with all hierarchy. But just a few seconds reflection on that conclusion reveals the inbuilt contradiction: you can’t do away with power by giving greater power to elite leaders.
That doesn’t mean that there is no solution. When the disciples of Jesus argued with one another about who was greater, they were jockeying for position in what they imagined would be the government that would soon emerge under Jesus, the King. In his response, Jesus did not say there would be no greater and lesser positions for people to fill, because their existence is an ineradicable fact of human nature. (Whether or not it was created to be that way or was a result of sin’s entrance into the world is another discussion.)
What Jesus said, in effect, confirmed the existence of power hierarchies, but prescribed how power should be used. “He who would be greatest among you must be the servant of all.” Elsewhere he said the humble would be exalted. Jesus did not come to do away with power and the idea of “greater and lesser”, although they will probably not exist in the new heaven and new earth. He commanded us to use whatever power we have to serve others and he said he would promote those who live humbly. The humble do not exploit the weak.
The gospel is both revolutionary and completely workable—although VERY demanding!
We react in horror when we learn that men threw acid on a toddler because the teachings of Jesus have saturated our culture for several centuries. In other cultures, that act could be accepted as necessary as long as one family or clan was “evening the score” on another. Not all cultures are equal!
This subject is another strong argument for missions and missionaries. The Good News about Jesus can transform the quality of life of any community—and illustrations abound!
But for now, evil men still visit violence on those who are lower down the power hierarchy. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!