A local story has been told on the BBC. A 17-year-old boy, angry about a penalty call, hit the referee in the face and a few days later the older man, husband, father, volunteer and good citizen, was dead. When something like this happens, we put on our white hats and ride out of Dodge. We try to put as much distance between ourselves and the violence as we can.
We insist that the boy be delivered to the judge, be tried as an adult, and the key be thrown away. We all become the Pharisee Jesus talked about, who thanked God that he wasn't like this sinful man. Such prayers are our attempt to comfort ourselves with distance between that boy and who we are. We fail to notice how that distance is itself, violence. We react quickly, not giving the time to thoughtful nonviolence. We plan harm to satisfy an impulse similar to what drove this boy to kill a man. Jesus would have said with our fantasies of revenge and punishment, we have done the same sin already in our hearts.
There is an important difference between what happens in our inner world and what we perpetuate in the world around us. Jesus knew our desire to put distance between ourselves and sin is fundamentally dishonest. It's refusal to come to terms that the distance between the best of us and the worst is not as big as we like to think.
Peacemakers are blessed because they have to face the violence within them. We all have fantasies of revenge.
Like war, Jesus taught that peace was something we make, not something we are born to. We must begin with ourselves. We could start by denying ourselves the pleasure of this distance. It's an illusion. There is no gulf that separates us, only the grace of a moment that we need to cultivate, not giving ourselves distance but turning towards empathy and compassion.
It's easy for society to say that the victim might have been anyone of us. It is more correct to say that the criminal could have been us.