Amidst the sadness and outrage following the terrorist attacks in Paris, Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised for saying he would not generally be happy with a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy, although he also said we should have measures in place to protect the public and to prevent terrorist attacks. The problem with a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy is that it makes the armed police officer or soldier into judge, jury and executioner, all in a few seconds. As one journalist wrote this week, a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy will not necessarily make us safe, but it may leave us sorry, as happened when Jean Charles de Menezes was shot, two weeks after the 7/7 attacks in London, because the nervous and overwrought armed police officers thought he looked and behaved like a Pakistani terrorist, changing buses and looking nervous, when in fact he was a Brazilian electrician, hurrying because he was late for work.
Our readings this weekend focus on Christ as king. The prophet Daniel, in the first reading, looks forward to the day when everyone will see the Son of Man being given glory and kingship, establishing his reign of justice and peace that will never end.
In the second reading, the book of Revelation takes up that prophecy, describing Jesus as the ruler of all the kings of the earth, coming on the clouds of heaven, and goes further, saying that he shares his kingship with us, making us a line of kings and priests to serve his God and Father.
But in the Gospel, although Jesus accepts the title ‘king’, his main message is that his kingdom is not of this world. An earthly king’s followers would fight to keep him from being captured, but when the soldiers came for him in the garden, the night before this conversation with Pilate, and Peter pulled out his sword, Jesus immediately told him to put it away. He does not follow the normal rules of politics and human behaviour. Instead he chooses the route of non-violence, even though it is the path of suffering and death, because it is the way to show his love and to wash away sins. Many martyrs for faith and campaigners for non-violence have followed him down that path.
We rejoice that he is king, and that he shares his kingship with us, but are we ready to accept his sort of kingship and to walk along the path he chose?