“Swiper, no swiping!”
Confronting the powers
Last month, we travelled with Nickelodeon’s cartoon character Dora the Explorer to learn about Jesus’ call on us to participate in his ministry of reconciliation in the world.
The plot thickens when we meet the cunning Swiper the Fox, who invariably pops out from a hiding spot to steal an essential piece of equipment, or snatch one of Dora’s animated-object friends.
In response to Swiper’s attempted burglary, Dora, her friends, and we readers/viewers need to say, “Swiper, no swiping!” Three repetitions of this simple command thwart Swiper every time. Dora acknowledges our assistance by saying, “Great job! Thanks for helping us stop Swiper!”
Two components of the Dora–Swiper encounter serve as a springboard for understanding a key aspect of Jesus’ peacemaking vocation. First of all, as friendly and winsome as she is, Dora holds tremendous power and authority over Swiper: her verbal rebuke is enough to stop him in his tracks. Secondly, Dora directs Swiper back to the world where collaborative exploration is the norm – swiping is an aberration, an interruption of the storyline.
Both figuratively and literally, Jesus is so much more than a cartoon character with a warm disposition. He is the one and only Word through which all things came into being (John 1:1–2) and the long-awaited Light for those sitting in the darkness of sin, violence, and despair (Isaiah 9:2; John 8:12). He is the Prince of Peace whose authority grows continually (Isaiah 9:6–7) and whose reign – accomplished through victory on the cross – lasts forever and ever (Revelation 5, 7).
We can surmise that Jesus would approve of Dora’s kindness and cooperative spirit, but the demands of the Christian gospel run far deeper. Jesus consistently sets people straight with their God-given vocation of doing justice, transforming conflict, and walking with those on the margins (Matthew 5–6). Moreover, Jesus engages the larger-than-life demons – the principalities and powers of violence, hatred, greed, and sin – that prey upon and interrupt the deeper storyline as established by God (Romans 8; Ephesians 1). Jesus demonstrates that love is stronger than all these “Swipers,” telling them to return to their original purpose. He tells his followers that this type of exorcism is part of their work (Mark 3:13–15).
In this way, peacemaking goes hand-in-hand with worship. In the Jesus story, making peace becomes inseparable with praising the One who rules over all “Swipers” both big and small. Building cultures of peace, transforming hatred, advocating for reconciliation, resisting the myth of redemptive violence – these become synonymous with proclaiming the lordship of Jesus.
This is the second lesson: God calls us to actively confront the powers of violence and proclaim his sovereignty over all attempts to thwart the original purposes of love. God calls us to peacemaking as worship, and worship as peacemaking. As the Word-made-flesh – the Light that could not be snuffed out by the darkest night of violence – Jesus calls us to live in the full-spectrum daylight of the new covenant: love God, love our neighbours, and love our enemies (Matthew 22:34–40; 5:38–48).
In relation to violence and conflict, some Christians talk about peacemaking and nonviolence as representing the “third way” in contrast to an instinctual fight/flight mechanism. However, we engage in more than just semantics to proclaim that love is the first way. In identifying God’s love as the beginning, the end, and the everlasting law to which all things are called in between (1 Corinthians 13:8; Revelation 21:6), we thereby praise God through Christian practices like nonviolent action, peacemaking, and advocacy for justice.
A question remains for us to ponder: How do we make sense of an apparent contradiction between Jesus’ categorical Easter victory over the powers of violence and the reality that these powers still wreck the planet, poison us with hatred, and destroy people’s lives the world over?
Perhaps we can take counsel from Dora on this point. She never asks why Swiper keeps coming back. Instead, she maintains an indomitable spirit and keeps confronting him over and over again.
Clearly, Dora does not try to save the world (in this regard she is most unlike Jesus). Instead, she identifies each manageable assignment, establishes a strategic plan, overcomes the necessary obstacles, confronts the ubiquitous Swiper yet again, and celebrates very well when the goal has been achieved.
Join us next month for Dora’s final lesson: the mind of Christ.
(link to BibleGateway.com)He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.