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Do not allow yourself to be provoked

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17.APR.09

EASTER MESSAGE BY BISHOP SONNY E. WILLIAMS Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies, St. Vincent and the Grenadines District.

“If you live by the Gun; you will die by the Gun!”

The arrest of Jesus and Peter’s violent response provides us some insight into the Master’s view of anger and aggressive response. The blow of Peter may have been aimed vertically at the head of the servant of the High Priest. Jesus rebuked Peter by saying, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:51).{{more}}

This rebuke is apt as it comes to us at a time when we are witnessing an escalation of violent crimes. Jesus Himself was deprived of His rights under Jewish law, mocked and beaten without a cause even robbed of His clothing as he hung upon the cross. Yet He instigated no rebellion or revenge against the authorities who oppressed Him.

Jesus’ rebuke to Peter is His rebuke to everyone who allows him/herself to be provoked to aggressive violent behaviour by a perceived situation of injustice. The principle behind these words is that that which is born of hat will beget hate and that which is born out of anger will beget anger. The person who embraces aggression and criminality not only exposes others but him or herself to danger.

One major concern of many is the rapid mounting of the aggressive and violent behaviour of our adolescents, especially our secondary school students. Often they blame others and situations for their anti-social behaviours. Jesus’ rebuke to Peter is a rebuke to you. If you live by the gun, knife or any other weapon, you will die by that weapon. Violence breeds violence. One secondary school student described her school as a “War Zone”. The emergence of gangs in our communities and schools has only served to further this culture of aggressive behaviour. Many choose not to walk away from potential fights because their “soldiers”, “shooters”, “dogs” or “goonz” are present or a cell call away to back them. The presence of gangs, guns and incidents of drug use and abuse among adolescents is a worrying trend.

The casual factors for the increase of youth aggressive behaviour postulated by psychologists include and increase of poverty, break down of the family, erosion of Christian values, violence on television, in movies and in popular songs and violent video games that serve to model unwanted behaviours. Some adults even express their approval, at least of males, who fight when picked upon by others. Other adults model aggressive behaviours towards other adults and to adolescents.

Jesus’ advice to Peter to put away his sword is a fitting admonition to all those struggling with uncontrolled anger and aggressive behaviours. This is a call to surrender your reliance on weapons and embrace alternative behaviours. This is a difficult step for adolescents because practicing alternative behaviours is not seen as a “cool thing” among many. Remember though, that doing right when we don’t feel like doing right gives us the strength to avoid doing wrong when we feel like doing the wrong thing.

Easter is the time when we celebrate the resurrection, God’s omnipotent ability to produce life amidst death, power out of weakness and success in failure. The people who struggle with uncontrolled anger and violent tendencies need not surrender hope of the possibility of change.

We may have to learn like Peter, that our failure is God’s opportunity, the point where God’s grace always proves to be greater. What we can learn through failure is to surrender to God’s grace everything we are, abilities and inabilities, for God’s grace to remake, for God to heal and to restore and to renew. No one needs to live by the gun or die by the gun. Christ died that you might have life!

The Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies, St. Vincent and the Grenadines District, wishes everyone a wonderful Easter.

Bishop Sonny E. Williams

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