3rd November 2023

The other day I had the honour to hear a sermon on that grotesque story in the book of Judges (Ch19-21) of a Levite and his concubine. It is a story of sexual violence and mutilation. The sermon was one of the most powerful that I have ever heard.

The preacher asked the question, “Why does such a grotesque story appear in our scriptures?” It is an important question. She used illustrations of women and children who today have died at the hands of men and violence. Some of her illustrations came from the present conflict in Israel/Gaza, stressing that brutality and violence happens on both sides of the conflict. She said the reason that the story in Judges is recorded is for those who suffer such violence today.

Repeated throughout the sermon was the verse from Matthew 10:29 ‘But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.’

There is no good news amid the murder and mayhem of the Judge’s account. And yet, the story mirrors some contemporary practices of international relations and warfare. One act of terrorism can lead to massive reprisals. Complete loyalty is demanded and those who question the legitimacy of a violent response are often dismissed as cowardly and unpatriotic. It speaks the painful truth about humans behaving badly, seeking revenge, and using brutality to terrorise.

The concubine’s story parallels something of the death of Jesus who faced such violence and was offered up to keep the peace. He represented the way of non-violence, the way of love – not of force or brute power. He opposed the Myth of Redemptive Violence and turned it on its head. In his death, he was not satisfying the demands of a vengeful God for a violent sacrifice to restore order. Rather he was taking upon himself all the violence of the world system, of us, in order that it and we might be healed, redeemed, saved from the otherwise endless cycle of violence and revenge.

Sam King