(Post delayed due to late-running Carol Service – apologies!)
The Healing of the Paralytic – Matthew 9.1-8
In a day when the news is full of the horrors unfolding in Aleppo, this passage leads me to ponder the nature of authority. “Someone must do something,” clamours my social media feed. But who? And what? There are no easy answers, and it tempting to think that the situation is hopeless.
But the hope Jesus gives is that there is – there can be – a different kind of authority, a different kind of power. And with it will come a different kind of Kingdom, a different kind of world.
But it relies on us, each of us, choosing to see and to use that different kind of authority, to relinquish our own power so that the power of God in us can break through. That requires an enormous vulnerability. It requires a willingness to lay aside our ideas about authority and power and control, to question our deep-held assumptions.
“Someone must do something.” Of course. But it is so tempting to think that the ‘something’ must be part of the existing structure of power and authority. A military strike. Sanctions. Even a diplomatic solution is, necessarily, part of the world’s idea of what authority looks like. Which isn’t at all the same as what Jesus calls ‘authority’ in the gospels.
What if instead of “someone must do something” we said “everyone must do something”, and not just in the moment of crisis, but all the time. We have a shared responsibility to reexamine the structures and ideas of authority and power which have led us to this point so many times, and will again. We have a responsibility to keep challenging, as Jesus does, the insidious notion that “this is just the way it is.”
Some Christians (myself included) do that through an explicit commitment to non-violence. Our pacifism does not mean that we are passive – quite the reverse. It means a commitment to thinking more deeply about the use of power and authority at every level of society. It means challenging the received wisdom of society with the radical authority of Jesus. It means maintaining that there is another way to live, which Jesus himself has shown us – if only we would open our eyes and see.
You can find our more about the Christian pacifist movement on the Fellowship of Reconciliation website: http://www.for.org.uk/