"The Way" Is Barefoot and Open-Handed: The Call to Make Peace
There are few things more perplexing to me than the obsession of many Christians with holding a firearm. My emotions on the subject have ranged in the past, but more than ever I am simply saddened that those who believe an all-powerful, loving God dwells within them also feel the need to supplement that power with the power to kill. Ultimately, I think it shows a simple (but important) lack of faith and my prayer is that we trust the power of the benevolent God we worship. Even in scary situations, we can remember that with God, all things are possible.
With God, all things are possible. I've seen prayer heal people. Legs have grown, backs have straightened, hearts are set free. Crises have been averted. Lives have been inspired. Personally, I don't think God is interventionist, I think we can be aware or unaware of the power, presence (and dare I say, person) that is the creative force of love in all things. Many of my Christian brothers and sisters are with me on this but do not hear the call of Jesus to use this power for making peace. No, I'm not talking about "passive-ism," and I'm not talking about a peace that is simply the absence of overt violence. For those who believe in a God of presence and power, be reminded; the spirit whose presence shows in love, joy and peace! By trusting the presence and power of the spirit, we need not fear. By walking in confidence with the spirit, we need not simply avoid scary situations, we can be in the midst of terror and still find peace. In fact, we can make peace. The gift we carry within us we can share with others. Our brothers and sisters of other faiths, our neighbors, our coworkers, the strangers we find ourselves in the midst of every day... If we are walking by faith in the spirit, we will be invited to create the same atmosphere God invited us into, one of peace. Maybe it is because we have only trained ourselves with an awareness of what God's spirit is doing in places that are safe. Many of us are safely within the walls of churches and Christian institutions much of the time, and there we feel safe. Jesus doesn't live in the walls of our favorite congregation, he walks with us. He sits and eats with those who may have nothing to do with him in name. This one who loves is with us (and others) working for love in all situations. The question is will we go and do likewise?
The peace of Christ destabilized the peace of Caesar (Pax Romana). The peace of Rome was this: Join us or die. The "good news" of Rome was that if we (the conquered nation) surrendered, we could at best enjoy the protection and opportunity of the empire. The good news of Jesus is God with us. The confession that Jesus is Lord is a confession that the kingdom of God is where our allegiance lies, and this is a kingdom that is spread in love. The peace of Christ is dangerous enough that it destabilized the peace of Rome throughout ancient Palestine and ignited counter-cultural movements of peace-making ever since. To our ears that are heightened to the latest propaganda, be it Republican or Democrat, Jesus's invitation to peacemaking can sound stale. We don't even trust that God fights for us, so we fight for ourselves. We miss the invitation of Jesus into radical peacemaking. Whether a march, an intervention of a crisis or simply a crucial conversation. In the movie Furious Love, there is a scene where a few ministers are meeting with a group of gang leaders, ultimately leading to one man's conversion into a way of peace. Opportunities like this will be missed for those of us who continue to resist God's invitation to make peace, whether our fear keeps us insulated from imagined danger or armed to resist it.
The way of Jesus is a "barefoot" and open-handed way of being. This means we're exposed. We are invited to be vulnerable. Jesus was authentic. Jesus was powerful. This Jesus said, "Enough!" to the powers of the sword. Jesus was peaceful, and he invites us into the way of peace. With bare feet, we tread into places of potential risk. God is our guide, our source, our inspiration. With open hands, we posture ourselves in trust of God and openness to others. We are receptive and aware, responding to inspiration even if it costs us something. The same fear that we overcome in reaching out to pray for people, we face and overcome as we create peace with our words, actions, and interactions. We create safe space because we are safe in God. If my feet have taught me anything it is that we are also adaptable to the conditioning and stimulus that we put into ourselves. From our exterior to our interior, we can train ourselves to be open, loving and trusting as we lean into it. So let us practice taking off our cultural shoes and move with the spirit into the moment, truly open and receptive. We live, move, and have our being in Peace itself; thus are we able to make peace in our midst.
Jesus reminds and inspires me to come out of my comfort zone and lean into growth. He inspires me to trust God, to have faith, and to create new possibilities in the world through word and deed. Even as it messes with our cultural notions of peace-by-war, we can trust God to lead us into true peace. The Way Jesus shows us is barefoot and open-handed, it is a call to make peace.