Category Archives: 2013-01

Pastor’s Pen for January, 2013

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14.27) Like people all around the country, last month’s shootings in Newtown, Connecticut have raised a lot of troubling questions for which there are no easy or obvious answers.  No one wants to see such tragedies repeated, but how to prevent them seems elusive.  Many are calling now for more stringent gun control legislation, banning assault weapons, better mental health screening, and beefing up school security.  And while these steps are long overdue and will probably help to some degree, no one is suggesting that they will provide the ultimate solution.  A few have argued that the solution lies in allowing more people to own and carry weapons for self-defense, but it seems to me that only encourages people to become more suspicious, fearful, and prone to violence than they already are.  If we intend to take our faith seriously, we can’t ignore the fact that Jesus rejected retaliatory violence in favor of turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-39), despite the extremely violent society in which he lived. So in the shadow of these recent events, I find myself asking what other insight’s Jesus’ life and teachings deserve our renewed attention.  Several come to mind: Nonviolence – War, terrorism, injustice and violence were as much a part of 1st Century life as they are today.  But nowhere in Jesus’ ministry do we see him engage in, advocate, or endorse violence as a solution to the problems of life.  His strategy was to combat these harsh realities with love, not force.  Even when his own life was threatened, he refused to resort to violence, or to let his disciples do so.  It was a costly choice, but one that was vindicated afterwards.  In his life, death, and resurrection lie the seeds of an alternative to the violent culture of our world – the seeds of a new way of life that God is introducing to us through him. Today, we tend to regard nonviolence as a naive approach to the harsh realities of life.  We accept war and armed conflict as inevitable necessities for which there are no alternatives.  We accept without question the violence idolized in our televised entertainment and on the video games that our children grow up with.  Our country has always had a Department of War (renamed in 1949 as the Department of Defense) but has never had a comparable Department of Peace.  Perhaps if we are to change our violent culture, the Church must offer a kind of leadership that secular governments are unable or unwilling to provide. Security – It’s only human to want to feel safe and secure.  Most of us tend to measure security in terms of our homes, our bank accounts, our jobs, and our nation’s military.  Jesus teaches us that God is our only real source of security.  God is there when all the other forms of security collapse.  For most of us, that's hard to imagine.  But given the turbulent state of our world today, perhaps we need to explore that alternative more seriously. Reconciliation – Conflicting interests happen all the time between individuals and groups.  When conflicts occur, they often become power struggles, in which one side wins and the other side loses.  Jesus shows us a different way to deal with our conflicts.  He defines victory, not in terms of which side gets what they want, but in terms of the quality of the relationship that results from their interaction.  Even when his enemies killed him, he forgave them, rather than let hatred divide them.  Not even his own death could stand in the way of Jesus’ willingness to be reconciled with them.  I wonder how our world would be different if relationships, not outcomes, were the results we cherished the most? Self-interest – The most remarkable thing about Jesus is his ability to put God’s will above his own self-interest.  That stands as one of the greatest mysteries his life reveals to us.  Over and over again, he put his own welfare aside in favor of God’s will for others.  In my experience, that's amazingly hard to do!  It takes an openness to God’s Spirit that few of us even try to cultivate.  Our own inner wounds often interfere with our openness.   Maybe that’s why Jesus spent so much time in prayer.  Maybe that’s how he overcame his own resistance, and in doing so, offers us hope that we can too. These are not meant to be a list of quick-fix, easy answers.  There aren’t any.  They are only meant to be some of the things I’m reflecting on as I try to hear God’s voice in the midst of this recent tragedy.  As this new year begins, let’s all commit ourselves to spend some time listening together for the words of Peace that God is speaking to us. – Duane