Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Flourishing: Peace

A Martin Luther King, Jr. quote floated around yesterday, making me think a little bit of all the people throughout history who have taught and sought peace -- Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela.  I want to post the link to the original speech, Loving Your Enemies.

King points out that every Christian at some point has to stare the Sermon on the Mount in the face: blessed are the peacemakers, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you. And he finishes with the quote that caught my attention yesterday, "I would rather die than hate you."  But despite the rather negative weight of that statement, I don't think he's just throwing out rhetoric.  Someone who truly seeks peace, who doesn't wait to understand their enemies before they choose to love them, is always at risk.  Every person I listed has felt that peril, that distress, and has endured through love. Rather than condemning those who persecute, peacemakers continue to offer them something better, whether or not they take the gift, whether or not they suffer because they offered it.  For "...if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption."(MLK)  

I've truly felt that in my life, many many times over; the most difficult thing I've ever done was to love someone that I felt intensely was my enemy.  While the power of redemption has gradually made itself more obvious in that relationship, it first came to me when I did the impossible, trusted in the Lord, and gave peace -- battered, broken, weary peace (as peace always is) -- another chance.  In the wonderful book The Hiding Place, a life-changing event happened to the protagonist as well.  Corrie (a Christian) had spent horrible time in a concentration camp, where she lost her father and a sister.  She tried throughout the experience to retain her faith and hope in Christ, which is what most of the book is about; but years after she was released, as she went teaching and speaking about her experiences, she was approached by one of her former camp guards, whom she recognized as one of the most cruel.  She found herself frozen, incapable of responding to his extended hand, and in anguish pleaded for the Lord's help to at least lift her arm in response.  What she experienced was an amazing outpouring:

"For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then."
This is the path I desire to be on; I'm willing to commit my little life to it.  Peace is not shiny and bright, it is often dingy and dangerous.  But I'll take the risk of being belittled, of being misunderstood, even of being exposed to the anger and contempt of those whose lives are filled with violence and hate.  This concept of loving your enemies is why I feel so strongly about guns, and why I love the story of the people of Ammon; it figures in some of my most personal prayers and struggles. The more I understand it and live it, the more I am aware of those who continually, quietly forgive me and allow me as many new chances as I need, and the more happy I become no matter what goes on around me.

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

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