The recent outbreak of terrorist attacks has once again pushed me into a corner. As a follower of Jesus, I long to respond appropriately. I am sad for our world. I want to help (though there appears to be little I can actually do). To be honest I feel pretty inept.
Then, I read an article, or a blog post. I sit in a conversation. I hear people’s fears and hopes. I witness a discussion about “how Jesus would respond.”
Jesus says things like “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek.” And I agree with him. Not that I think like Jesus. But over a lifetime of my blundering around I have become convinced that Jesus generally knows what he is talking about. So I long to do those things. I want to be like Jesus. He is crucified, yet while dying asks God to forgive those perpetrating this horrible act. That is my example.
So, I want to be a non-violence guy. A pacifist. I don’t want to fight or shoot anyone. I want to be like Jesus.
But, it is way more complicated than don’t shoot or fight. I wish it wasn’t, but for me it is. And so I confess: I am a wannabe pacifist. I desperately long to follow the path of Jesus. But I lose faith. Or get confused. Or sometimes think we don’t truly understand Him.
Here are some of my struggles.
I believe in non-violence. But should I demand that my government believe in that as well? Or my neighbor? My confidence in the way of Jesus, in his grace and love, is what allows me to even attempt to be a person who shuns violence. What right have I to ask someone else who does not share that confidence to do the same?
I think it is wrong to shoot someone. So if there is someone breaking into my house, should I call the police, who may arrive and shoot someone? Or at least will meet violence with force.
Can a Christian be a police officer? In the military?
How about voting. If I believe a policy or candidate is good, even “Jesusy”, and vote for them, am I okay with how that policy is enforced? Laws I think are good and righteous are inevitably enforced with violence. Obey or we will come with guns and make you. Is that the Jesus way?
Is it right to go on Facebook or Twitter and demand Christians “turn the other cheek” while living under the protection of the most well-equipped and trained Armed Forces in the world?
Can I say to the Jew in the concentration camp, “we are over here praying for our enemies” and do nothing to free them? How about the women being raped by ISIS?
Am I cool with violence being committed that is “just”? I’ll be honest, I feel pretty okay about the Paris police shooting guys who were mowing down people at a sidewalk café. How else would they have stopped? So am I okay with that as long as I don’t have to do it? As long as Christians don’t?
Yes, I believe love is bigger than fear. But if I go on the internet castigating those who are more scared than loving right now do I really understand love?
I can be a pacifist when someone attacks me (if that happens), that is the example of Jesus. But can I be one when someone else is attacked? Should I?
I hear cries from Christian’s for justice. We want the poor to be helped, the suffering to be comforted, those discriminated against to be made equal. Is violence or at least the threat of okay if it brings about those good and righteous ends?
So, I am confused. I am trying. I make lots of attempts to cultivate love in my life. I haven’t hit anyone in a really long time. I don’t spank my kids. I am working to be a pacifist. But I don’t have all the answers. My non-violence is not airtight. And because of that I refuse to go on Social Media and demand that everyone “love our enemies” without admitting both how difficult, and complicated that truly is. We need to do more than quote the Bible (yes I said it). We need to be willing to have the hard conversations, to admit our understanding isn’t complete, to be honest that it is far easier to demand love than to figure out how to pull it off.