Je Suis, Charlie

Je Suis, Charlie…

…I am Charlie.  These words have been scrawled on placards, post cards, pictures, headlines, and spoken in public settings hundreds of thousands of times over this past week.  The reason?  Solidarity with those who were massacred at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in Paris by Islamic Terrorists.  This killing spree and the events that have followed have caused a multitude of thoughts and comments by many.  Here are a few of my own.

  • We value our freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to be wrong, freedom to do harmful things to myself as long as I am not harming another, freedom to make huge amounts of money and spend it anyway I might choose, freedom to ignore the needs of others, …and the list could go on. We value our freedom.

However, within our love of freedom we need to remember the following familiar statement attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.  She said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being.  With freedom comes responsibility.  For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”

One of the ways I believe the Bible talks about this is the second great commandment:

Love your neighbor as you yourself.  Matthew 22:39.

Interestingly, Jesus is quoting the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18. The whole verse says:

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.

Sometimes in expressing of our freedom we do not act responsibly, we do not respect others, we do not love our neighbor as we want to be loved.  Freedom without some form of moral constraint opens the door to abuse.  Often this abuse is done in the name of freedom.  Sometimes it is done in the name of religion.  Sometimes the two get pushed together.  I think about these things.

  • When you believe your cause to be righteous and holy you can justify any behavior in the name of that cause, even when that behavior goes against the written underpinnings of your belief.

I believe this is true across the board: educational, economic, interpersonal, political, religious, etc.  Call it self-justification or any other label you may want to place on it, I call it human behavior.  There is incredible danger with this ‘modus operandi.’  I recall what is written in Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  I think about these things.

  • The expressed underpinnings of this murder spree was that Charlie Hebdo had offended the prophet Mohammed by cartoon characterizations of him in their publication. The murderers, committed to their faith as they have come to understand it, sought to avenge the insult by taking the lives of those who had offended and giving their own lives in the process.

I have wondered what Christians would stand for in terms of their faith.  Would a Christian, does a Christian stand up for the ONE in whom they believe.  How many times have we heard a person say, “God dammit” without comment?  How many times have I heard, “Jesus Christ” and said nothing.  Why are we silent?  Who is it that we fear we might offend?  I think about these things.

  • One of the terrorists said in his martyrdom video, “Harm us and we will harm you. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

This is certainly a biblical thought.  Following the giving of the 10 commandments Moses goes into specific applications…many specific applications of God’s commands.  The one being quoted is from Exodus 21:23-25 that says:

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life,
eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

In our day of assault rifles, drone strikes, chemical and nuclear weapons such retaliation could be terminal for whole segments of society and whole ecosystems of our planet. This leads me to believe that we need Jesus more today than ever before.  As Christians we need to struggle with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount and how they apply within our 21st Century Geo-political world.  Here is what he said:

Matthew 5:38-48 (NIV) 

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

How do we understand these words?  How do we live them?  How do they apply when our civilization is under attack?  They seem more easily applied in the realm of personal interactions than to social order and international politics.  I do not know the answers to these and a multitude of questions.  I think about these things.

  • Je Suis, Charlie. “I am Charlie.”

Many were willing to link arms, walk the streets of Paris and several other major cities, put their lives at risk by standing up against the self proclaimed defenders of the prophet of Islam.

Am I willing to say, “Je Suis Jesus?  I am Jesus?”  I think about these things.