'The lamb is worthy'

By SCOTT WATFORD

Statements of Faith

There is a lot of violence in the news these days. Much of it is linked to religion. An image from the book of Revelation shows the Christian attitude toward violence. The image is that of a lamb.

In verse 12 of the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation, this statement is found: "The lamb is worthy." This is uttered in answer to a question found in verse two of chapter five: "Who is worthy to open the scroll with the seven seals?" The symbol of the scroll with its seals shows God is in charge of the future, and his plan is revealed through history. The lamb alone is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll. This is a symbol of Jesus Christ, who now is ascended to the right hand of the father and reigning. He alone is worthy to reveal God's plan.

When the lamb does break the seals and open the scroll, judgment is unleashed on the earth. The fierceness implied is seen in the title given the exalted Christ elsewhere in chapter five of Revelation. There, he is called the lion of the tribe of Judah. This is an image of victory, a conquering lion.

However, it is the lamb's victory that is depicted. We don't end up with the image of a slaughtering lion but that of a slaughtered lamb. The lamb's willing self-sacrifice is what makes him worthy. Christ's power is the power of love. This is an image of gentleness. Christ is victorious through sacrificial love.

Therefore, the Christian faith does not seek the destruction of its enemies. Rather, the church imitates her Lord in offering her life for the world. The victors are the ones who persevere in sacrificial love through time in imitation of the lamb. That sort of suffering will be vindicated. The violence that inflicts such suffering will be judged. The lamb shows the way to victory is sacrificial love.

In these days when violence -- much of it religious violence -- is in the news, it is good to remember the Christian faith's example is the lamb, not the lion. It is God who is judge. He reveals his judgments through Christ through time. Ours is not to execute judgment. That belongs to God. The way of Christ is not the way of violence. The way of Christ is gentleness and sacrificial love.

Scott Watford is pastoral associate at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church, Hays.