Deep Peace in a Time of Conflict
What do you think it would mean to take seriously Jesus’ words about loving your enemy?
Without even crossing our doorstep, we are faced with the realities of war, political hostilities, and angry division in our world every day. I wonder, is there an alternative to the common default behaviors of condemnation and dehumanization, which are the usual rationales for various forms of aggression? Does the desire to reclaim, transform, redeem, resist, or defy something justify ceaseless conflict? Are other paths available to us—such as the humble, cruciform one walked by Jesus?
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Try to imagine a major leader in business, education, military, or politics saying, as Jesus did: “Follow me; do it my way; I am gentle and humble in heart.” Eugene Peterson wrote in Tell It Slant, “When it comes to doing something about what is wrong in the world, Jesus is best known for his fondness for the insignificant, the invisible, the quiet, the slow—yeast, salt, seeds, light. And manure.”
Take, for instance, the 1990s version of the culture wars: The weapons that were used by the right to defeat the left are now used among warring factions of the right as they battle over who, on any given issue, is far enough to the right on the political or religious spectrum. The same practices are used as the left wars within itself. Where one is on a religious or political spectrum is not ultimately definitive. The modern political scales upon which we weigh ourselves are the inventions of humankind. They are artificial constructs.
In sharp contrast, the soul of a human being, while unseen, is concretely real. The heart/soul each one of us possesses is what makes us who we are. I refuse the definitions of political manipulators. I accept, welcome, and give myself to the label “follower of Jesus,” resolving to seek truth wherever it exists, learning to live life in the kingdom of God as a person of gentle peace, the overflow of which comes to expression in loving neighbor and enemy.
A xenophobia-fueled state of war too often exists in personal and civic relationships. Current techniques of contemporary war include firing off destructive tweets, writing incendiary posts, thinking the worst of others and the best of ourselves, yelling and arguing, and passing on rumors that destroy reputations. We think, Well, we must respond in this way. The issues are important, and they are the enemy. What else do you do with enemies other than use overwhelming force to break them down in defeat?
What do you think it would mean to take Jesus’ words about loving one’s enemy seriously?
Let’s take a moment of honest reflection: Do we find ourselves daydreaming about how to humiliate someone online or about becoming a person of gentle peace, those who exude grace and generosity to others, thus enhancing their lives? Whichever internal reality is true of us, it is the trellis upon which the flowers of our outward life grow.
Excerpted from Deep Peace: Finding Calm in a World of Conflict and Anxiety, p. 173, 174.