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Photo: CNN.Com

In the morning rush hour of April 12 earlier this year Frank James, 62, entered the Brooklyn subway system, killed 10 people with gunshot wounds, and left at least a dozen others injured.

James who went by “prophetoftruth88” on his YouTube channel (which has now been disabled and all videos removed) would regularly go on lengthy rants. One of them has an essence of truth:

This nation was born in violence, it’s kept alive by violence or the threat thereof and it’s going to die a violent death. There’s nothing going to stop that.

In this month to consider the place of violence in our times, we limp to the end of the year with the wounds of violence here and there, near and far, between nations and with individuals.

Though James hopeless prophecy suggests “there’s nothing going to stop” this violence, we can make choices where violence stops with us. This may mean absorbing the violence rather than reflecting and amplifying it. But who can hear this and not make excuses?

Thus it must be odd to hear Jesus speak to a people enduring the occupying force of the Roman Empire:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

This, and This Only

By this only will violence be stopped. Taking that slap to the cheek (not metaphorical slaps only), not holding back your shirt, but being kind to the ungrateful, loving your enemy, and being merciful just because – that is to say – just because our Abba Father is merciful.

Costs a lot, doesn’t it?

Think how much more violence costs.

This is more enigma than dogma.