I have never heard this interpretation, but it makes beautiful sense to me as a parent. I make sacrifices daily just to make my daughter’s life easier. And I would happily take on suffering if by doing so I could spare her. Right now, nothing is more worrisome to me than the approaching start of kindergarten: she’s entering a world where I have less power and ability to shield her from suffering.
As I pondered these thoughts I considered the war in Syria and the bombings in Egypt. In the Palm Sunday readings, we heard the priests refuse to take back money from Judas, telling him they would not have Jesus’ blood on their hands. Pilate says the same thing. And so do we, as Americans.
Matthew 27:24 "So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.'"
We are innocent of Syrian blood, Iranian blood, African blood, or so we like to think. We point our fingers: It’s Obama’s fault. It’s W’s fault. It’s Trump’s fault. It's Islam's fault.
And yet, like any good parents, we Americans have diligently created a paradise for our children and our culture. Even the poorest people with housing have drinkable water, proper sewage disposal, access to food and fresh air. We offer free education to all citizens from age 7 to 18. We had a peaceful transition of power when Trump took office, followed by peaceful demonstrations.
I’m not saying the US is a utopia.There are painful socio-economic disparities, deep injustices, systemic racism, and the recent violent desecration of the Dakota Access pipeline.
We have created a safe place for most of our people by ignoring the suffering of others, and in some cases, creating suffering for others. Our refusal to make any sacrifices to benefit others is inviting their blood on our heads.
- We refuse to buy fair trade products because they cost more money.
- We refuse to raise the minimum wage because it would raise the price of our Big Mac.
- We selectively support repressive regimes and we destroy our own environment because it is easier to use oil and gas than wind and solar power.
- After they have suffered to guarantee our safety, we allow our veterans to live on the streets.
- We shop for the lowest priced product even as we complain that manufacturing jobs in America no longer exist.
If we claim Christ, we must embrace the suffering of the world and do what we can to alleviate it.The Tomahawk missile strike on Syria is the latest red flag thrown into our midst.
War is the easy option in all cases. It is always easier to send troops and kill until we get compliance than it is to talk through solutions and cooperate. But war is also the most wasteful, the most violent, and the most evil solution.
We can do this directly, with prayer, financial support to refugees and humanitarian organizations, and political action.
We can do this indirectly, by reducing the resources we use, showing love and kindness to every person we interact with, and living a life which is creative rather than destructive.
Or we can continue to wash our hands, saying “This blood is not on our hands; see to it yourself.”
But as Christ taught us: what we do to the least of these, we do to Christ. And in the global economy, the least of these is no longer limited to the poor and oppressed in our cities and neighborhoods. The least of these are refugees from Syria, orphans in China, child soldiers in Africa, migrant workers in America, the homeless in every city, and many others.
This week I remember the redemptive suffering of God in the Incarnation of Jesus. I remember that His final command was to serve others. I worship a man who chose to be beaten and killed rather than fight back. I accept that there is blood on my own hands. And on Easter Sunday, I will rejoice that the blood on my hands is washed by Jesus, and that through the Incarnation, I can make a difference. I can take on the suffering of others to alleviate it. The only question is how.