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Stumbling Along the Path of Peace

January 3, 2014

Words—I love them, but I am acutely aware of the ever-present danger of my words being misunderstood.  We interpret what we read and hear by holding it up to what we already know.  If there is conformity, we most often understand the received information accurately.  But if the new idea calls into question the assumptions and beliefs we already hold, we may distort it by trying to force it into the mould of our worldview, or we may dismiss it as deceptive, misguided or simply wrong.  The result can be confusion, dissension and discord.

 

So as I set pen to paper, or rather fingertips to keyboard, preparing to make public more of my ever-developing thoughts and personal tenets, I feel a deep-seated sense of uneasiness.  I am mindful that I must tread lightly, taking care not to assert things too strongly, for after all what I am expressing are only my opinions, opinions which I strongly believe contain truth, but which I am not so arrogant as to believe to be THE truth.  No claim, if it is honest, is final.

 

Lord God, merciful God, our Father, shall we keep silent, or shall we speak?  And if we speak, what shall we say? 

—Dorothy Day

 

Indeed, what shall I say?  After prayerful consideration, I feel I must speak my truth boldly, speak the words of Jesus, the words of scripture, limiting my own words to how I understand those.

 

To add to my trepidation, my subject matter—pacifism—is a “hot button” issue.  Few moral and theological positions are as deeply cherished by their adherents, yet so quickly dismissed by their opponents.

This divisiveness, I believe, is fueled at least in part by something I have discussed in previous posts, the problem of words.  There is little agreement as to exactly what pacifism is, both its defenders and its critics defining it in a variety of ways.  Various proponents of pacifism frame it across a spectrum of interpretations running the gamut from the simple desire for peace to the complete renunciation of violence in all its forms.  As a result, adherents of pacifism espouse many “pacifisms,” some based on religious beliefs and some secular.  John Howard Yoder’s classic analysis, Nevertheless: The Varieties of Religious Pacifism, describes no less than twenty-nine different manifestations of religious pacifism, and his is a non-exhaustive list.  This multiformity has lent itself to misunderstanding and caricature by pacifism’s detractors.

Forgive me a small aside.  Labeling isn’t always a cause for concern, and it’s often very useful.  But to me, to attach the label “pacifist” to a person is often unprofitable.  Like many labels, it tends to put the labeled person in a box, defining a part of them as the whole, delimiting their identity.  It is also far too often a shortcut to “othering,” assigning someone to the “them” category (as opposed to “us”) in the exclusivist economy that is far too prevalent in the world, and alas, also within the church. 

The slew of definitions hung on pacifism is surprising considering the term is relatively new.  Reportedly, pacifism is a translation of the French word pacifisme, coined by lawyer Émile Arnaud at an international peace conference in 1902.  He derived the word from the French equivalent of “pacific,” meaning “tending to make or preserve peace,” which finds its source in paci, the dative singular of the Latin noun pax (peace).  From its original denotation as “making peace,” it has evolved, at least in some circles, to mean devotion to peace, and further expanded, the conviction that no value takes priority over the commitment to peace, the definition that most closely conforms to my present understanding, that best reflects agape, selfless love.

In light of this great diversity of characterizations of pacifism, I believe a clear denotation is vital to the understanding of the ideas I intend to explore.   Therefore at the risk of seeming (or perhaps being) pedantic, and despite the reality that defining something often fails to achieve perspicuity, I will try to be as clear as possible about what I myself mean when I use the word. However, the reader must keep in mind that this is my personal definition, how I see pacifism in my life, and not a general definition, which I think perhaps impossible given the wide range of understanding of the word.

In a very personal sense, “pacifism” is above all exactly what the word was originally intended to mean, a love of peace.  I define this peace not in a negative sense, as the absence of conflict, but in the positive sense of Old Testament shalomaccording to Strong’s Concordance, “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, friendship, the absence of agitation or discord.”  My love of peace certainly implies an unalterable rejection of the use of violence, but to set non-violence at the core of my pacifism would still allow violence to set the terms.  When I embrace shalom as the core theological affirmation of my pacifism, God sets the terms.  From the position of shalom, the supremacy of vulnerable love, peaceableness and compassion is unquestionable.  From the position of shalom, no other cause or value can override my commitment to treat each life as what it truly is—a creation of the hand of God, and therefore infinitely precious.

While the pacifist idealism of the “Make love, not war!” generation appealed to me in my youth, today my heart dwells not so much on ideals but upon obedience to Christ.  The praxis of pacifism is well summed up by Yoder in The Politics of Jesus:

“What Jesus renounced is not first of all violence, but rather the compulsiveness of purpose that leads the strong to violate the dignity of others.  The point is not that one can attain all of one’s legitimate ends without using violent means.  It is rather that our readiness to renounce our legitimate ends when they cannot be attained by legitimate means itself constitutes our participation in the triumphal suffering of the Lamb.” 

Just another small aside, if I may.  There have been those who have moved heaven and earth to invalidate Yoder’s authorative writings (and pacifism in general) citing his admitted sexual misconduct.  To me this is about as defensible as rejecting the writings of Paul on the basis of his persecution of the followers of Jesus.

My theology is ever developing, an ongoing restless exploration.  The truth is hidden and must be sought, its layers peeled back like those of an onion.  To hold to a fixed theology, in my opinion, displays a dangerous arrogance that denies the possibility of new understanding and present-day revelation, and assumes the possibility of fully knowing God.  I have come to realize I do not own my convictions, the degree of truth I have received, and now gratefully accept them for what they are, gifts from God, graciously given for my edification, to carry on the good work He has begun in me toward completion (see Philippians 1:6).

The genesis of my pacifist thinking dates to the turbulent ‘60s when as a teenager I was trying to make sense of the Vietnam War and wrestling with how to respond. Like many of my generation, I agonized over the destroyed lives and devastated communities that invaded my living room every evening via the television news, the horrific images of children being burned and scarred by napalm, prisoners being tortured, mangled soldiers being patched together by harried medics, and seemingly endless corteges of body bags solemnly rolling down conveyor belts from military transports.  In my mind and heart the just war doctrine marched out to justify the carnage simply didn’t cut it; though I then lacked any theological framework to undergird it, the peace movement had an irresistible draw for me.

Looking at worldly systems, even my young eyes could see the feet of clay.  Blindfolded Justice couldn’t see the heavy thumbs of the self-serving politicians, businessmen and clergy on the scales, tilting them in favour of the powers-that-be.  The injustices that touched me scorched my spirit and heaped coals on the fires of my indignation.  On a personal level, I chafed at the skewed economic system that kept my family in poverty with all its inherent limitations, the blatant sexism that prevented my mother from earning an equitable wage that could lift us out of it, the shameless fabulists who promised me an “American dream” future whilst setting up financial roadblocks to the continuing education that would make that future possible.

More than a decade later, my nascent Christianity feeling its way in the darkness of our prison system, the values of which I could not reconcile with my blossoming faith, I discovered conversation partners committed to the restorative justice movement.  From them I learned that authentic theology and social theory had to come from the ground up, and needed to be relevant in communities of the poor and marginalized. But my full embracing of pacifist belief was not the product of armchair theologizing among the comforts of Canada.  It was the seismic shockwaves of my immersion into the lives and world of the poor of Haiti that shook my theology and worldview to their core and concretized my understanding of the pacifist politics of Jesus.  My “conversion” arose out of experiential faith, not reason (a moot distinction perhaps, as I see faith and reason not as essentially distinct realms, but rather differing degrees of intensity of participation in the mind of God).  Though the intellectually compelling and inspiring writings of a few prominent pundits of pacifism have spoken to me, they played no part in my initial formulations.  Those authors did, however, furnish me with analytical tools to vet the milestones along the road I was already travelling. 

The life and teaching of Jesus is the lens through which I see everything, and through this Christological lens I see a foundational theological rationale for Christian pacifism.  Jesus provides me a hermeneutic for understanding what I consider irrefutably evidence, that shalom, God’s people embracing all of creation, is at the core of God’s intention.  He embodies a broad and deep vision of life that I have come to see as thoroughly pacifist.  To fully expound on this understanding would involve writing a book; here I will offer merely a thumbnail sketch, lightly tracing its most general contours as I find them in scripture. 

The first theme I will pursue, arguably the most basic, is the love command that Jesus declares to be a summation of the Biblical message.  The second is Jesus’ political vision, deeply rooted in sacrificial love, which stands in stark contrast to the tyranny of the world’s empires, both political and economic.  The third theme is Jesus’ optimism that His followers really can live out what He taught.  The fourth is that the life and teaching of Jesus mirror God the Father. My fifth and final theme is the model of Jesus’ cross that embodies self-suffering love and exposes that by their very nature the structures of human culture are God’s rivals for the trust of human beings. 

You may note repetition of some ideas where they are relevant to more than one of my arguments.  In point of fact, in separating those ideas I do them an injustice, as in reality they do not exist apart from one another, but like Father, Son and Spirit, are manifestations of one entity, facets of one great mystery.  In addition, as I have repeatedly stressed, proper appreciation of any scriptural idea must be within the context of the entirety of the Bible.

When a Pharisee asked Jesus which commandment is greatest, He answered thus:  

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)

This double love command reveals three things.  First, for one who believes in God, love is foundational, at the heart of everything.  Second, loving one’s neighbour is inextricably married to loving God.  (It should be noted that Jesus clearly defined neighbour as anyone in need.  I cannot slip off the hook of His words by categorizing people.  There are no “outsiders” from whom I can withhold love; every human life is seen as precious.)  The third revelation is that Jesus understood His answer to be the summation of the entirety of His Bible—the Law and the Prophets.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, lends his support to the idea that the summation of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, is the fulfillment of the law through the love of God and fellow man.

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  (Romans 13:9-10 NIV)

The double love command is the central building block of the theology of pacifism, its “manifesto” if you will, both in the positive sense of establishing love as the summum bonum, the highest ethical standard, one that can never be secondary to some other possibly violence-justifying ethical value, and in the negative sense of providing the basis for rejection of participation in violence as a morally acceptable choice.

Just as that command flows directly from the law and prophets, so too does the call to imitate God’s love for all people. Showcasing the character of God, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus directly links our loving others, even our enemies, with God loving all people, even His enemies: 

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44-45 NIV)

Luke reports the message that Jesus draws from the story of God with His people in his characteristically straightforward style:

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  (Luke 6:35-36 NIV)

Near the beginning of this Sermon, Jesus ties His message to the Hebrew Bible:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17 NIV)

God’s response to wrongdoing is always loving mercy, as richly illustrated by the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32.  Since God has reached out to me in Jesus’ life and death, exhibiting His unconditional love for me while I was yet His enemy, if I take the counterintuitive life-giving words of Jesus seriously, how can I do less?

Throughout the Gospels, we read Jesus’ sharp critique and rejection of the power politics of governments and religious institutions.  Calling His disciples and joined by His followers,He laid out the details of a grounded-in-love upside-down politics that seems to defy human logic.  He encouraged His followers to resist the worldly dominance systems and operate according to the word of God rather than the rule of the sword, adopting a peaceful way, a pacifist way, living transformed lives in the here and now, lives that would bear witness before the entire world to the ways of God, the ways meant to be the norm for all human beings.

Jesus did not, however, call His followers out of the world:  

 

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  (John 17:15 NIV) 

 

Rather, He asked God to protect them as He mustered them into a counterculture community meant to operate within the nations and empires of the world as an alternative society.  But this community was not to be of the world, not yoked in a Constantinian-style accommodation, a balance of power between competing egoisms that would still be dependent on the sword.  This movement was meant to compete with contrasting visions for the ordering of social life, reflecting the values of Jesus’ visionary politics. 

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”  (Mark 10:42-44 NIV).

The idea for this visionary community was not new.  Jeremiah spoke to it, and Micah and Isaiah both foresaw a time when nations would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Indeed the entire Old Testament can be read as a cautionary story concerning the failure of nation-centered, sword-oriented politics to sustain the people of God.  Jesus calls His followers to be the embodiment of love of God and neighbour, spreading the message of God’s salvific love to make disciples of all nations, a vocation most decidedly not dependent upon the centralized, coercive political power of nation-states.

Jesus was confidently optimistic about his followers’ ability to live out even His hard teachings.  At the heart of Torah and at the heart of the prophets’ exhortations we see the assumption that indeed human beings are capable of walking in the paths of justice and shalom.  When he said, “Follow me,” he clearly expected people to do so—here and now, effectively, consistently, fruitfully.  When He called people to follow Him—to love their neighbours, to reject the tyrannical patterns of leadership among the kings of the earth, to never return evil for evil and never resist evil by using violence, to share generously with those in need, to offer forgiveness seventy times seven times—Jesus actually expected that this could be done.  When He appealed to His followers to make kindness and love, even for enemies, the kind of priority that can never be overridden by some other value (that is, when He established the basis for pacifism), he expected that this indeed would be possible.

That Jesus embodies and commands a posture of nonviolence appears to me to be an axiomatic truth.  Although the three persons of the Trinity are distinct, they are one substance, essence or nature.  What one is, all are.  Therefore Jesus’ life shows us exactly who God is and what He is like, God Incarnate revealing the very character of God and of God’s intention for human social life.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.  (Hebrew 1:3 NIV)

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  (Colossians 1:15 NIV)

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9 NIV).

But the preeminent argument for Christian pacifism is not the Sermon on the Mount, nor even the life of Jesus. Its deepest grounding is the theology of the cross, for the cross is the most compelling illustration of God’s love for us.  It is on the cross that God demonstrates His response to violence at its most extreme, His way of addressing His enemies. Quite amazingly, they are not destroyed but met with an abundance of love, His goal always to transform them, not defeat them.  It is on the cross that Jesus’ character (and thus God’s) is fully revealed—dying as an act of forgiveness for His enemies.  As a Christian pacifist I believe that God’s nonviolent love, even to the point of death on a cross, sets the norm for all my behavior.  God has responded to me even in my rebellion not with violence but with sacrificial love.  In imitation of Him, I am not to respond to Him or my fellow man otherwise.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us….  while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son (Rom. 5:8,10 NIV)

Jesus’ cross is instructive more for its narrative content than as a basis for an ideology of sacrifice. The narrative significance is the shameful death of the sinless God-man, the powers that be—the religious and political institutions, the spiritual and human authorities—responding to Jesus’ inclusive, confrontative, barrier-shattering compassion and generosity with violence.  Jesus’ death, rather than destroying these social structures, leaves them intact, revealing their true nature and providing a basis for withdrawal of credibility and allegiance.  At its heart, I see Jesus’ cross as the embodiment of pacifism.  As it points to a refusal to turn from the ways of peace even when they are costly, it points away from the violence of empires and institutional religion, the very structures that killed Jesus.  So when Jesus invites His followers to share in his cross He calls me to walk the road of peace.

The roots of Jesus’ politics reach deeply into the rich soil of the most foundational ethics of the Bible—justice, righteousness and steadfast love—intentions so tightly intertwined that they cannot be teased apart without destroying their essence.  Biblical justice seeks to establish or restore fair, equitable and harmonious relationships in society.  It demands that any member of the community have the same rights as any other.  Always tempered with mercy, it recognizes the inalienable right to abundance and wholeness and to freedom from exploitation, oppression and every form of victimization.  It involves judgment in the positive sense of setting things in balance in a just and equitable fashion, resolving all conflicts, whether social, economic or political, with the equal rights of all in mind.  Righteousness in the Biblical sense is the expression of Biblical justice, behaviour that lovingly and justly fulfills our responsibilities to others as the ultimate fulfillment of our responsibility to God.  This, not piety, is holiness—behaving with justice toward all others in obedience to God’s laws, for God is a “lover of justice” (Psalm 99:4).

Steadfast love underlies all in Jesus’ clear restatement of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 in His seminal pronouncement of Matthew 22:37-40, the double love commandment.  Here I find all that is expressed in Micah 6:8, all that God requires of me—to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.  The basic ethics of the politics of Jesus can be encapsulated in this one animating principle: treat people and their needs as holy.  

In light of this, as a follower of Jesus I am called to peaceably seek social justice in the power of the truth and of God, not the power of man.  I live in the reality that although the fullness of God’s justice must await the coming kingdom, social transformation is possible in the kingdom that Jesus’ repeatedly declared is “at hand”—a kingdom as yet invisible but already established, present and accessible, and over which He reigns.  The power of the Gospel is demanding to be manifested in me and through me.

Despite being derisively caricatured as such, consistent, lived-out pacifism is decidedly not passive, safe or withdrawn.  It has nothing to do with passivity or docility.  It inescapably leads to conflict, in fact seeks it out and often intensifies it in order to directly engage the powers of evil, the powers that resist freedom and compassion. The pacifism of my understanding is not for those who will be intimidated or paralyzed by fear, but rather for those who understand the full implications of these words of Jesus:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  (Matthew 10:28 NIV)

It is certainly not an arena for cowards.

Consider Jesus’ words:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”  (Matthew 5: 38-41 NIV)

I believe it is lack of social context that has led to a gross misunderstanding of what Jesus is saying here. Firstly, the word “resist” is a misleading translation.  The Greek word carries a military nuance denoting armed opposition.  A better translation would be, “Do not violently resist against the one who is evil.”  Secondly, the three illustrations

 that follow cannot be appreciated without at least some understanding of Jewish and Roman law of Jesus’ time.  Jesus’ is not advising his hearers to cower before violence or submit to evil.  Rather He is counselling them to seize the initiative from those who hold and abuse power, to assert their power and human dignity, and to respond in ways that expose exploitive and oppressive systems for what they are.  But in doing so, one must always be conscious of the humanity of self and other, recognizing the sacredness of each person.  Understood in this way, the message is explosively revolutionary!

As a follower of Jesus I am obligated to seek to make peace, peace not as the world understands it, as a taming of violence, but as the wildly uncontainable shalom of God.  I must challenge evil not in the world’s way, with the threat of punishment, but with the possibility of genuine healing and restoration of broken relationships.  I must pursue justice, not with the retributive, abstract and coercive justice that prevails in the world, not with violence that simply adds to the downward spiral of evil, perpetuating retaliation and counter-retaliation, but rather with love, confronting, exposing, disarming, extinguishing the characteristics of evil, and ultimately bringing the evildoer to abandon his ways and adopt God’s—to repent.  I am to mitigate and eliminate evil actions, not harm or destroy the evildoer.  True justice, God’s justice, loves the victim and offender alike, and seeing past the lure of eye-for-an-eye vengeance, seeks to maintain the dignity of both.  The pacifist way of dealing with evil offers the best long-term hope for actually healing the problems created by evil actions, of breaking the spiral. 

 

The only ultimately redemptive response to sin and how it profoundly distorts human social life is, as Paul asserted, to seek to overcome evil with good (Romans 12).  The only way I can successfully stand against violence without simply adding to violence in the world is from an overtly non-violent stance.  Therefore I can no longer stand with those, Christian and non-Christian alike, who attempt to secure justice through the anguished acceptance of violence, or, more disquietingly, who are propagandists for injustice, enthusiastically endorsing the use of violence as a means to ends. 

 

Since so many view pacifism narrowly as the resistance to and rejection of war, I deem it necessary to speak to that notion, albeit very briefly.  Certainly Christian pacifism as I define it wants no truck with war.  When the will of God and the will of man conflict, I am compelled to follow the will of God.  In my understanding, there is no such thing as a “just war,” the moral impossibility that evil can produce good, that the ends justify the means.  In full realization of the regrettable probability that I will make enemies by it (certainly that is not my intent), I declare my agreement with John Haynes Holmes’ extremely blunt assertion,  “If war is right, then Christianity is false, a lie.” 

 

While faithfulness to Christian pacifism and political effectiveness are not incompatible, neither are they always the same.  Faithfulness can lead to effective action in the world, including nonviolent strategies for social change, but effectiveness, as we understand it, is never assured.  Therefore, following the example of Jesus, those who hold to pacifism must be prepared to face tragedy. For me, the possible tragedies of pacifism are better than violent success.  When considering hard choices, I am convinced that nothing surpasses the importance of faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

 

Living the pacifist life is not easy.  It touches upon every detail of how I negotiate the everyday.  It has far-reaching ramifications for me, ramifications which I have not yet fully explored, much less incorporated into my life.  As my commitment to pacifism deepens, so does my awareness of my consistent inability to live it out.  Even when I manage to avoid overt violence, I am always implicated in some form of violence or another.  Far too often my comfort rests on the back of violence. 

 

In the plain-spoken words of folksinger Utah Phillips,

 

You came into the world armed to the teeth. With an arsenal of weapons, weapons of privilege, economic privilege, sexual privilege, racial privilege. You want to be a pacifist, you’re not just going to have to give up guns, knives, clubs, hard, angry words, you are going to have lay down the weapons of privilege and go into the world completely disarmed.

 

Ultimately, the ground zero of evil is not without me but within me.  Pacifism “begins at home.”

 

At times it can seem that what Jesus’ calls me to is not just difficult, but impossible.  The world often seems so strong that standing up against it seems futile.   At those times it is helpful for me to remember the words from G.K. Chesterton’s What’s Wrong with the World:  

 

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.

 

If I truly believe what the Bible says, I must keep trying, leaning on the comfort of scripture. 

 

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  (1 John 4:4 NIV)

 

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  (Philippians 4:13 NIV)

 

Ultimately, my hope resting on the promises of God, not on the machinations of man, there is no such thing as defeat in my conception of pacifism.  The pacifist way is a matter of faithfulness to Jesus Christ, from whose love no tribulation can ever separate me.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)

Although my commitment to pacifism is a deeply personal one, it is neither private nor individual.  It is a commitment made from the heart on the basis of my personal identity, made in a subjective way, but still deeply shaped by my social context, the tradition of which I am part and my relationship with others, and therefore is open to public scrutiny and discussion.  Only by accepting the personal nature of my commitment will I be able to do justice to it.

My intent in writing is not to fuel controversy.  I reiterate that although of course I believe there is a deal of truth in my tenets, I fully recognize that they are my beliefs, and just as flawed as is my own humanity.  I share the sentiments of John Newton, slave-trading sea captain and self-described “African blasphemer” turned pastor and writer of hymns, most notably Amazing Grace, a paean much loved by me long before I understood what it was saying:  

 

I am a friend of peace; and being deeply convinced that no one can profitably understand the great truths and doctrines of the gospel any farther than he is taught of God, I have not a wish to obtrude my own tenets upon others, in a way of controversy; yet I do not think myself bound to conceal them.

 

In writing this post, I have only peeled a layer or two off the onion.  As I stumble along the path of peace, “the Holy Spirit as my walking stick, and Jesus as my guide” (this has become a personal anthem), I will continue searching, reading, writing, listening and studying, seeking the mind of God, and ultimately checking my provisional insights against the reality of scripture.  As I do, I consider it vitally important to listen to both those who share my convictions and those who do not, welcoming dialogue about anything I write, for as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.  (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

 

 

The rising sun will come to us from heaven…. to guide our feet into the path of peace.  (Luke 1:78-79 NIV)

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