So there’s a story of two people walking down the street:
They turn to go an alley way and as they do they look up and see a gang blocking it off.
And one of the men turns and is like, ‘I’m getting out of here.’
The other stops him stops him and goes, ‘Doesn’t your New Testament say that if your enemy strikes you on the right cheek you should offer him your left ?’
The other laughs and says, ‘I think that’s much more of a metaphor.’
The other responds with, ‘I don’t think so. I think it means for us to show courage. It means for us to take a blow, several blows if necessary, to show you won’t be turned aside – that we will stand our ground. Because when you do that it draws on some thing in human nature that causes the individuals respect to increase and their hate to decrease. I think that’s what Christ was onto. I know it because I’ve seen it at work.’
Now, I don’t know how this story ends but the story is credited to Gandhi and a pastor.
We live in a world full of options – easy options. From taking a pill to solve this, to getting our food freaky fast, to the greatest abomination of all – instant coffee. We want it now, we don’t want it to hurt and we definitely don’t want to work for some thing.
And so when we encounter a word like pacifism; it’s easy for our brain and mind to just jump to thinking weak or passive or just not anything I want to have anything do with. That it is somehow this thing that’s reserved for an elite or privileged people or person but in reality has no practical place in real life.
So maybe we aren’t giving pacifism enough credit. To embrace a pacifist life isn’t a life of inaction but on the contrary it’s life full of action, full of creativity, and full of challenge. Because to make the claim to be a pacifist means to go against that deep urge to use force, then power and ultimately violence towards another.
Pacifism is hard and it will hurt because it confronts. Instead of fleeing or responding with that pent up rage towards the bully. We stop and we stand firm. We go against the individual or the group that is spewing hate and force them to see their absurdity by pointing out and showing them in radical ways to love and grace. We look for creative ways to show to justice and mercy. Because at the heart we trust that God, that Jesus, was serious when He said His kingdom does not operate the way ours do.
A favorite theologian of mine, Stanley Hauerwas once said, ‘I’m not a pacifist because I’m so nice. I’m a pacifist because I’m such a mean son of a bitch. I need the community to keep me accountable.’ I get that. I feel that and it reminds me that I need you. And also if it’s going to work, you need me too.
So may we remember, that it is only together that we enter this new reality Christ came to bring. And that his reality, this kingdom, we are continually invited to actively and creatively participate in and that this kingdom is bursting forth all around.