Approx. read time: 3:30 min.
In 7th grade I pretty much understood that I wasn’t into delivering the counterpunch.
This was after I got dissed off the volleyball team.
I don’t mean the school’s competitive team. I mean the one that formed at recess.
The counsel I received? If they bully you, you bully them right back. Give some sass.
Some sixty years later, I’m still not a natural bully. But something else has come into play.
I have discovered that the Jesus I follow is nonviolent to the core, straight through to the end. And his words are clear: Forgive. Turn the other cheek. Bless those who hate you. Forgive, forgive, forgive.
Repeatedly, I have to let his life and his teaching reconfigure my life. No resistance, no bargaining, no lame excuses, no pushback.
So I think about these things as I hear daily reports of all-out war on people who carry no war in their hearts.
Young students, children in hospital. Mothers giving birth. Workers, wage-earners providing for their families. Everyone of them carrying much in their hearts, but not war.
Yet perpetrators of death-dealing violence violate their own humanity, too, shattering what is most precious within them: the image of God embedded in human flesh and soul.
Violence wins nothing. War, for all its destruction, is impotent yet deadly bluster, incapable of honest conversation. War is the antithesis of the communion of bread, cup, and hearts for which Jesus so ardently prayed on the night of his arrest.
“Take this,” he said, “all of you, eat; share the cup among you,” knowing full well his betrayer sat at table with him.
In the Garden at Gethsemane, one of his men—Peter—pulls out a sword and lops off the ear of the high priest’s slave.
What does Jesus say to Peter? “Put your sword back in its sheath. Those who take the sword shall die by the sword.” And he restores the ear of his adversary’s slave.
Violence begets violence. Death begets death.
Yet nonviolence is not passive disengagement.
Actual nonviolent resistance to injustice is prophetic action.
Such prophetic resistance to injustices that wound our world, joined with restoration, forms the core of the Gospel.
I wish we heard this more often.
Jesus’ response to loveless injustice was love, forgiveness and restoration. “Father, forgive them,” he prayed from the cross; “they know not what they do.”
What is asked of you today? What is asked of me?
We may not be crowding into bomb shelters, or weeping over the bodies of loved ones or neighbors lying in our streets. But what the Apostle Paul says is true: When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.
This slow-walk tragedy, played out on our screens, shapes our Lenten season, a season of suffering thrust upon the human community worldwide.
I discover that to doom-scroll, opinionate, or merely condemn betrays the urgency of the hour.
I stand with the nonviolent Jesus, to get my heart mixed up with his, with sorrow and repentance for the infection at the core of humanity.
I stand with the nonviolent Jesus, to love and forgive, and to hold open a space for the Spirit of the risen Christ to penetrate, now, into the most needful places, and break the will to war.
This is our season—yours and mine—to build attitudes and disciplines of nonviolent resistance to what is unjust and death-dealing. And to pray for the falling apart and the healing and restoration of those who carry war in their hearts.
How do you stand with the nonviolent Jesus? Send me a story, especially one where your intentional presence of peace has broken the dynamic of violence.
For encouragement, I recommend my book Seven Last Words and Eight Words of Easter: Meditations for your journey to Pentecost. Read sample pages and purchase direct from my Store. When you do, you support my ministry directly.
Listen to stories on my two albums, Free to Be Free and Living as Jesus Taught, on my Spotify artist page–especially the track, “What Peacemaking Looks Like” on Free to Be Free.
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