Every time I write a post about my (mostly sadly ineffectual) stabs at being a peace-maker, I hear from at least one person who says, "Oh okay, so if you saw a defenseless creature being harmed you'd just stand there. You'd just let someone be killed without having the cojones to use lethal force yourself."
I've thought about this a lot, trying to imagine the scenario such people have in mind. I don't and wouldn't own a gun so I wouldn't be in a position to use lethal force in any case (as a 62-year-old, 118-pound woman, my bare-hands, brute-force strength for sure wouldn't do the trick).
But if I did own a gun, what are the chances that at the exact moment someone stood to be, say shot at, beaten to death, or raped, there I would be: alert, unencumbered, sidearm at the ready? I'm no statistician, but I imagine pretty slim.
In fact for all the zillions of guns out there, how often do we hear of a bystander being at the exact right place at the exact right time, shooting down a would-be assailant, and riding off into the sunset?
In my case, never. Instead, we hear about chaos. We hear about kids getting hold of guns and accidentally (or increasingly intentionally) shooting each other, themselves, their parents, or strangers. We hear about the carnage at Columbine, Newtown, Charleston.
As anyone who’s ever been locked into a long-standing feud with, say, a family member knows, violence gives us temporary relief/release and then we need more. It's like porn: in order to satisfy, the violence needs to become more corrupt, more perverse, more intense.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Violence is a formula: violence begets more violence. We don't know how or where the violence is going to break out, but as sure as e=mc2 it is going to break out somewhere.
The beauty of following Christ is that we are freed from the formula.
The follower of Christ acts from love, knowing that at least is within his power, then cedes control and leaves the results to God. We say to our drug addict kid, “I love you but you’re not welcome in the house when you’ve been using”—and if our kid then hates us, so be it. We quit our high-paying job to follow a creative vocation, knowing that if we have to live in poverty for a while, or possibly forever, Christ will make our lives rich and full anyway. The follower of Christ doesn't play God by dropping an atom bomb on tens of thousands of civilians with the rationale that killing those people will save a bunch of other people. How do we know that if we refrained from dropping the bomb and looked for a non-violent solution, no-one else would have had to die?
That is wild-card. We don't know what will happen. They might kill us and they might not. But even if they do--this is the glory, mystery and wonder of the Resurrection--our deaths will bear unimaginable fruit.
Christ put himself in mortal peril without exercising violence toward anyone else. He put himself in the line of fire unarmed. He told the truth. He didn’t mince words. He was never, ever a doormat. But he also never returned violence, whether emotional or physical, with violence.
That’s an extreme sport. That is a feat to challenge the bravest, the baddest, the most stout-hearted among us.
So no, we don't just stand there. We commit our entire strength, heart, mind and soul to living a life of inner peace. Instead of cataloguing the other person’s defects, we look at our own. We examine our resentments, secrets, shame, guilt, fears. We take those things to our spiritual directors and to Confession. We see the ways we’re enmeshed with certain people; the way we’re terrified to say no, make boundaries, truly live. We see the predictable ways we respond to certain triggers. We ask for help in changing our patterns of behavior and thinking
We commit ourselves to a life of unceasing prayer, knowing that prayer is dangerous. We risk ourselves to what prayer might call us to: changing our careers, moving, risking poverty, scorn, disapproval.
For most of us, the risk is played out on the daily battleground of our families, co-workers and friends--but that is its own kind of martyrdom. We, too, will be nailed to the Cross. But "Be not afraid," says Christ. Store up your treasure in heaven. Regard the lilies of the field. My kingdom is not of this world.
Whether or not the people around us change, we change. Christianity is not a fairy tale. It leads us to work we’re passionate about, relationships that make us feel safe, a schedule unburdened by the desperation to make a mark, lord it over, win.
In the midst of our suffering, we will begin to experience the wild-card genius of love.
|I HAVE CALLED YOU BY NAME--YOU ARE MINE...|