OWE NO ONE EXCEPT LOVE
Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14
September 5, 1999 by Tad Mitsui
In England one evening, I was watching a BBC television program. It was a story about an extraordinary couple in Northern Ireland. They just got married, and the program began by showing their wedding. It looked just like any other big wedding in the beginning. But when the camera caught the close-up image of the bride near the alter, I realized that this was no ordinary wedding. The bride”s face was badly disfigured and the maid of honour was carrying a baby. Then the camera focussed on the groom. He did not look like just another ordinary handsome man either. His body movement was awkward. He wore artificial limbs. Later in the interview, he said that he lost one leg and an arm.
They were the survivors of the terrorist bombing in Omagh in Northern Ireland about a year ago, which killed and maimed many people – both Catholics and Protestants. That evening when a bomb exploded in a pub, they were celebrating their engagement with some friends. She was pregnant. The bomb shattered her body waist up, and made him severely handicapped. She was in coma for several months. She gave birth to a premature but healthy baby while she was still unconscious. They were interviewed some weeks after the wedding. It was a big story in Britain. The whole chain of events sounded incredible, almost like a miracle – the fact that they survived, the birth of a child while mother was in coma, and the marriage itself despite their terrible handicaps. As I listened to them speaking about their near death experience and many difficult surgeries they had to go through while they were preparing their wedding, I was struck by a complete lack of bitterness in their comments. They looked and sounded very happy. When asked if they held any grudge against the perpetrator, (I don”t remember the exact words they used, but) they responded by saying something like, "We are so happy that we are still alive. Besides there were thousands of details we had to attend to to prepare for the wedding, and now we have a new life with a little one. There is no time for hatred." I could not help tears in my eyes.
There are too many places in the world today, where violence begets hatred and hatred begets further violence. Spiral of violence continues and escalates in East Timor, Palestine, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and many other places. No amount of talk and agreements don”t seem to stop people killing each other. I became convinced after watching that TV program in England that the people like that couple in Omagh, who were too busy celebrating love, hold the solution to the problems of hatred and violence. The story of Passover in the book of Exodus is a good example of how successfully a nation can begin its life without violence and war heroes.
Passover is the most important festival for the Jewish people. It comes at the same time as we remember the crucifiction and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. It is the day to remember how God freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. For the last dinner in Egypt, God told the people to slaughter their best lambs and to collect blood, and to smear the doorposts and lintels with it. The spirit of death would pass by the houses whose doors were smeared with the blood of the sacrificed animals. But the Egyptian homes, which did not have the marks of sacrifices, lost all their first born children. Terrified Egyptians let the Hebrews go. That is how the Jewish people still remember the beginning of their nation as free people.
You notice that unlike histories of other nations, the Jews have no brave warriors or victories in battles as the beginning of their history. It was God who vanquished through sacrifices of innocent lambs. Later, Christians inherited the same spirit and interpreted our salvation as the result of the sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus Christ is called the lamb of God. It was not because we were so good that we were saved, neither were we so strong that we defeated the power of evil. It was love of God that won. It was love that accepted suffering that prevails. It was forgiveness and sacrifice that had overcame hatred, and sowed the seed of their future.
This is why we believe that love is the supreme law superseding all other laws and rules. This is the teaching of the Old Testament, and was perfected by Jesus Christ as he lived by it. Paul repeated it in his letter to the Romans. "Owe no one anything except to love one another." Then why do so many people still believe that the bigger power that overwhelms violence with more violence can bring about peace and harmony? Violence begets further violence. Jesus said to one of the disciples who used a sword to fight off the people who came to arrest him, "Put down your sword. Those who take up the sword will perish by the sword." And he was led to be the sacrifice on the cross. We belong to the religion that believes in the power of love that accepts sacrifice for the sake of well-being of others.
The last stop on our holiday in England was Canterbury, where there stands a cathedral known for its martyr Thomas Becket. He was murdered in the cathedral in 1170, because he stood for faith and stood against the king Henry the second. In the Canterbury Cathedral, there is a small chapel which is dedicated to the martyrs and saints of our time. Many known and unknown people are remembered there, people like a little known nun who was gassed in the Nazi death camp with her Jewish neighbours, or Martin Luther King who fought for the racial equality through non-violent means in the U.S. and was assassinated, as well as persons like a young theological student who was murdered on a street of Teheran in Iran because he did not tell where other Christians were. They are remembered today and the love they lived and die for is still a powerful force. B
ut the evil powers who killed them are no longer existent. I lit a candle in that chapel to remember the couple in Omagh who did not die but bravely stood for love and forgave those who caused them terrible pain and suffering. Love overcomes, always. Owe no one anything except to love.