This is what war looks like in the 21st century: The enemy is not confined to some particular country that we can attack. The enemy does not necessarily form an army that we can engage at a border. We cannot round them up. We cannot sever their lines of communication.
They seem to be able to strike at will, wherever and whenever they choose. If we were to lose this war, it will not be because they have invaded and occupied our country; but because they have invaded and occupied our minds.
I have a very dear friend who was born in an occupied territory in the Middle East where he and his fellow country men and women lived as virtual slaves. The rumor reached the authorities ~ and it was not true ~ that he was participating in an attempt to overthrow the government.
To escape further persecution and possibly even death ~ he and his family became refugees and fled across the border of a neighboring country where they hid-out until it was safe to slip back into their homeland. Eventually, my friend was caught and murdered by the government for being a revolutionary and an insurgent. My friend’s name is Jesus.
Many people, including some of his own disciples and followers, wanted Jesus to lead them in armed rebellion against their oppressors. They wanted Jesus to kick butt and take no hostages! But Jesus did have a plan to overthrow the yoke of oppression and evil.
And Jesus did stick to his message, even though he was eventually executed by the occupying, military government. And so what was his strategy, his mission, his plan, his “secret weapon”? His law was love; and his gospel was peace.
I have another friend. Have you heard these words before?
“The ultimate weakness of violence
is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence ~
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Many people come to church in times of trouble because they hope and pray that there is at least one place where they can be welcomed with open arms; accepted for who they are and not for who they appear to be; a place where they are not judged or condemned for being different. They come hoping to find people and holy books and healing rituals that will help them to make sense of the madness that surrounds us.
They come to befriend the Prince of Peace.
May we keep a faith, a hope, and a vision that cannot be held hostage. And may we be such a people that, in our healing, we go where words and thoughts are not always effective, and where fear and hate have no dominion over love and peace. Yes, perhaps the worst level of terror is when you allow it to infiltrate your mind and soul. May we all experience and emanate a peace that surpasses all human understanding.
This piece by the Rev. Dwight Wolter appeared originally on patheos.com.
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Dwight Lee Wolter is the pastor of The Congregational Church of Patchogue at 95 East Main Street in Patchogue, N.Y. Read more of his work at dwightleewolter.com.