Peace On Earth…Posted: December 17, 2014 | |
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9 I am fifty-nine years old. I grew up during the Vietnam war. Protests, marches and riots were in the news nearly every day. Three assassinations affected me deeply, as did the Kent State killings (I cried, because there were older neighborhood men I looked up to who were in the National Guard, and because college kids not much older than I were lying dead on the street). It seemed half the country was rejecting traditional values while the other half was trying to preserve them. There was plenty of “us vs. them” mentality everywhere one looked. But it wasn’t as bad as what I see today.
Never have I seen people at each others’ throats as now. I’ve been a conservative, politically and socially, most of my adult life. I’ve shaken my head at liberal thinking and had my share of arguments with liberals, and I still feel that conservatism, and with it, capitalism, offer the best answers for many of the problems we have today. But in light of the terrible divisiveness I see all around me, and the outright rage and hatred evident everywhere, I find myself very much unwilling to sacrifice my neighbor on the altar of my beliefs. Now, I know there are those who say that there are covert powers-that-be that have created all this chaos in order to reap that very attitude so we can more easily be conquered. I halfway believe it myself. I am not a pacifist and I’m not one to give up liberty for peace or security. If there were an enemy overtly trying to take those things from me, I would fight. But if there are such covert powers, they have succeeded in making my neighbor seem like my enemy. But at least as regards the sort of social and political issues I am alluding to here, my neighbor is NOT my enemy, and I will not take up arms, literally or figuratively, against my neighbor, no matter what the potential cost (see Luke 10:25-37).
Hatred makes people blind. Hatred comes from fear. The more we fear, the more we retreat into our opinions and ideologies. We need a resurgence of Courage; the courage to listen and embrace and to bend a little. I don’t know if any of the huge issues facing us can be resolved any time soon, but the hugest one – the apparent hatred we have toward one another – could be.
This being the season we celebrate the birth of Jesus, it occurs to me that if each of us followed his example – whether one chooses to make him one’s Lord or not – the whole world would drastically change, and for the better. I’m not talking about Christianity; I’m talking about following the example of the person of Jesus. Some of the most notable and effective world changers have done just that. Alan Hirsch states, in his excellent book, “The Forgotten Ways”, that “Gandhi… when probed about the ideological roots of his philosophy, he claimed absolutely no originality for his ideas: he said that he learned all this from Jesus indirectly, via Tolstoy.” Martin Luther King Jr. used both Gandhi and Jesus as his models. From Mother Teresa to countless lesser known names who have changed their little corner of the world for the better throughout history,
Jesus was the example. Imitating Jesus needn’t and shouldn’t mean refraining from standing on and speaking the truth (as best we can). But it definitely means our fellow man, woman, and child are not our enemies, and it also makes us our brother’s keeper (see again Luke 10:25-37).
I would like to suggest that the things that make us uneasy toward one another are exactly the things we ought to look at more carefully than people tend to do. These are the things we DON’T want to look at. In that light, if this talk about imitating Jesus makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself: Could there be any harm in exploring the idea, to see what that might look like?
To those of you who are Christians, as I am, I confess that there is in me a lot of room for improvement. And so I make this outrageous claim: if a movement were to begin and spread, in which people – Christians and non-Christians alike – determined to SIMPLY ACT more like Jesus, the world would begin to be a brighter, happier, more equitable, and freer place immediately.
Consider the reason for the season!