Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation

Changing the Game

Monday, December 26, 2016

Love Summary for the Year: Week 2

Changing the Game
Monday, December 26, 2016
(Feast of St. Stephen)

Today I encourage you to read the account of the death of Stephen (Acts 7:58-60). Stephen, the proto-martyr of Christianity, has become a new Jesus, which is henceforth the only and never-ending goal. Jesus and Stephen state their truth, forgive their enemies, fully let go, and are released into a transformed state that we call “resurrection.” Stephen is presented as a perfect model and imitation of the new consciousness that is now let loose in the world.

Both Jesus and Stephen are victims of the “sacred violence” that has been foundational to culture from the very beginning of human consciousness, starting with Cain and Abel. If it’s true, as René Girard and Gil Bailie both demonstrate, that all groups and ideologies are formed by an unconscious scapegoat mechanism [1], then we have to find a way out of this default pattern. Jesus replaces the de facto operating story line of “redemptive violence” with a new story line of redemptive suffering. There is the Gospel in one sentence! Unfortunately, only a minority of Christians got the point after Jesus and Stephen. To this day, most Christians still believe in the myth of redemptive violence. The church was supposed to be a “called out people’’ (ekklesia) who no longer believed the lie, which John the Baptist calls “the sin of the world” (John 1:29), using the singular word for sin. Ignorant hating, excluding, and killing is the universal sin of the world to this day.

Bailie calls the revolution of tenderness, which was released into common consciousness at the death of Jesus, “the virus of the Gospel.” In every age, denomination, and culture, only a few understood the message. By grace and conversion, they realized that they could no longer project their inner violence outward, either creating victims or playing the victim themselves for their own empowerment. They see the only way to be victim in a generative and healing way is as Jesus did, by forgiving and releasing his crucifiers and himself.

The Gospel demands a great deal of us. It calls us to a perennially unpopular and unselfish path. Little wonder Jesus said, “The world’s going to hate you” (John 15:18-19). When you can no longer play the game of judging, labeling, and punishing others, you will quickly become the outsider at most every cocktail party you attend. But Jesus has taught us how to hold the pain of the world until it transforms and resurrects us. This dangerous virus is what Jesus calls “the hidden leaven” inside the Gospel (Matthew 13:33, Luke 13:20), the resurrecting power that will keep the world from its ordinary path toward self-destruction.

What cleverness and courage it took to place this feast of Stephen on the day following Christmas so we could not miss the Gospel’s direct implication and could quickly move beyond all sentimentality. Any full Incarnation will inevitably lead to passion, death, and resurrection. It is a certain progression.

Gateway to Silence:
Be the change you wish to see in the world. —Gandhi

[1] See René Girard, Violence and the Sacred (Johns Hopkins University Press: 1979), and Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1996).

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Love Your Enemy: The Gospel Call to Nonviolence,Richard Rohr on Scripture, disc 4 (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 1996); and
Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2008), 144.

Image credit: Doves and Pear Blossoms after Rain (detail) 1266-1300, Qian Xuan (1235-1305), Cincinnati Art Museum.
Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.