“When your first allegiance is to a king and a kingdom…the meaning of ‘brother’ gets extended to the most unlikely people.” –Caleb Hutcherson
Here’s a powerful truth: the Christian standing to salute the flag has more in common with the Christian kneeling in protest than he does with the non Christian standing at attention next to him. Similarly, my friend Brian recently pointed out that the biblical metaphor of “many parts, one body” should be applied to the issue of racism. Combining the two, I was dumbstruck at what we might see if we read 1 Corinthians 12 through the lens of today’s context.
It might look something like this:
1 Corinthians 12:
If any of us are discriminated against, we all suffer; if one part is privileged, we all benefit.
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether black or white, minority or majority—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the person of color should say, “I am not part of the body because I am not a white evangelical,” that does not make him any less a part of the body. And if the Black Lives Matter activist should say, “I am not part of the body because I am an agitator,” that does not make her any less a part of the body.
But not in the way you think.
Me too–I’ve objectified women.
It’s surprisingly terrifying to say this out loud, to type it in black and white. I’m afraid of being branded a “pervert,” I’m afraid that people I care about will feel uncomfortable being around me.
But I’m even more terrified of nothing ever changing.
This is what keeps screaming out of my heart as I’ve listened to the avalanche of “Me too” stories tumbling out of so many of my friends. I’ve realized that we will never solve the pervasive problem of sexual harassment and abuse until we acknowledge whose problem it really is.
(Here’s a hint: it’s not a “woman’s issue.”)
To be Christian means learning to live within the tension. The kingdom of heaven is already here, but not yet fully. We long for heaven, but live on earth. Death has been defeated, but we still feel its sting. Against all hope, in hope we believe.
But today I want to talk about another, more pressing tension: to be a peacemakers usually means stirring up trouble.
I often feel caught between the words of St Francis and Martin Luther King. I feel the healing pull of St. Francis words, “Lord, make me an instrument of peace. Where there is hatred, let me so love.” These words resonate deep in my bones–this is the life I want to live. These words pull on me to slow down, open my eyes, and see the conflict around me. Their insistent tugging compels me to listen longer than feels comfortable, immerse myself in discord, and speak with kindness, gentleness, and love when everyone else is screaming.
In the midst of a rancorous weekend filled with divisive rhetoric, one group of people stepped out from the acrimony and hate, leading onward in the way of love. It’s just probably not the group you expected.
In case you missed it (although I’m sure you didn’t) the big story of the weekend was the NFL national anthem protests. People across the country couldn’t stop talking about it. Some people agreed with the protest, some disagreed, some were deeply offended by the nature of the protest, some were deeply offended by the offense. And so it went, on and on and on. Bitterness, frustration, entrenched tribes shouting from fox holes. Precious little listening, precious little empathy, precious little grace.
And we were so busy fighting that we missed the point entirely.
I haven’t always been a pacifist–I used to make fun of pacifists as weirdos, wimps, and unrealistic dreamers with their heads in the sand. But, I’ve been on a journey the last decade or so that’s led me to pursue peace over violence. Now that I’m one of the weirdos, I’m learning it’s not so bad. But I am increasingly wrestling with the realization that my pacifism isn’t just weird–it also makes me offensive to a lot of people who are really important to me. What do I do when my adherence to Christian non-violence causes conflict? (ironic, right?). But it causes conflict with my family, close friends, people in my church, and many others who have had a profound impact on my life.
When I don’t know what else to do, I write. I’m not writing to persuade you–I’m writing to start a conversation. Sometimes the hardest topics to discuss are the ones we’re most passionate about. But we all lose when that happens–sometimes silence can be a violence of its own. I’m hoping to start a conversation, not have the final word. I’m hoping we’ll continue to talk, continue to listen. I’m hoping this will bridge the gap between us, not widen it.
So–Why am I a Christian pacifist? Continue reading
What did you think when you first heard about the dark-skinned young man who dishonored one of his nation’s most sacred symbols, just to make a point? How did you feel about his public disgraceful treatment of his heritage for a personal social cause?
By the way, I’m talking about Jesus of Nazareth, not Colin Kaepernick.
When Jesus stood in a synagogue on a Sabbath and healed a man with a withered hand, he deeply offended the Jewish faithful in the room. And when Kaepernick sat for the anthem in a stadium on a Sunday, he deeply offended patriotic Americans across the country. But if we pause and take a deep breath, it’s quite possible that Jesus’ miracle can help us understand Kaepernick’s protest, and Kaepernick’s protest can help us understand Jesus’ miracle.
First, how Jesus helps us understand Kaepernick: Continue reading
There’s been a lot of ugliness in the past couple of weeks. But I believe that God brings beauty out of the ugly. Even when it feels like the walls are closing in and the ugly is smearing everything I hold dear—I’ve staked my life on the belief that the beauty God brings is more convincing than the ugly that soils.
What strikes me most about the ugly conversation swirling around the Syrian refugee crisis is how convinced we’ve become that Muslims are our enemies.
What strikes me most about the beauty of the gospel is how radically it reorients our hearts and our actions towards our enemies.
It is the greatest irony when we are excited about sending missionaries to Muslims, but are opposed to bringing Muslims to us.