The power of flowers and candles in a world of guns and bombs
On Saturday I had purposefully put my phone aside for a while. When I finally looked at it late Saturday night I felt like the world had completely changed while I was in my little technology free bubble. It was like my phone was taken over by news, comments and reaction to the attacks in Paris. It has been a week that has raised questions and fears as we’ve received news of attacks in Paris and Beirut. This is scary. We don’t have to pretend it isn’t. War today looks very different. You do not know who your enemy is. You do not know where they are. Suicide bombers mean anyone could be at risk, anywhere. We don’t need to deny these feelings, however we’ve got to be careful in our responses and reactions.
I’ve been wrestling with how to respond to such a world, both internally and externally, as a follower of Jesus. Unfortunately we know this is not the end of such tragic things happening in our world. I’ve also been wrestling with how to help children, youth and families live in such a world.
I’ve been chewing on the promise that one day “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4) How great it’ll be when no one needs any weapons. None. That is the kind of Kingdom Jesus is building. That is the kind of Kingdom He invites His followers to start participating in now.
I've heard that military chaplains do not carry guns or a weapon of any sort, even when they are travelling with armed comrades. The reason I’ve heard said for this is “It is strange people in the world have to carry weapons. Chaplains remind us of the way things should be.” We are to be a world of peace. We are to be reconcilers, peacemakers. We are to be a glimpse of the way things are supposed to be where ever tribe, tongue and nation becomes family.
How do I participate in the Kingdom of peacemaking now? How do I be part of the solution?
It seems so daunting. I am one person.
And yet, people choosing to live differently has always been the start of change, even of changing whole nations. Ghandi. Martin Luther King Jr. Mother Theresa. Noah. Moses. Peter.
So, I choose to live differently. I choose to live the ways of Jesus, even when it is misunderstood. I choose to live the ways of Jesus, even when it is counter-cultural. I choose to live the ways of Jesus that lead to reconciliation and peace.
As we think about responding to the brutal attacks in our world it really does start with what is going on in our own hearts. Am I fostering anger or hatred? Am I treating every person and people group as valued? I must not and cannot label a whole country, people or religion as evil. Do I treat anyone as an outsider? How am I not just talking about peace but being a peacemaker? Peacemaking brings what has been separated, divided and broken back together into wholeness and integrity. It is not “faking” peace. It is not pretend all is well when it is not. It is doing the hard work of reconciliation and choosing to live at peace. Even when others choose to continue in evil and broken relationships, I can choose to live in peace and work towards peace. Flowers and candles really can do more than guns and bombs.
You may have seen this video circulating in the days since the Paris attack of a Dad explaining to his little boy about what has happened. (Click here to see the video.) The boy has concluded they will have to change houses and move because of the bad guys. The Dad comforts him by saying, there are bad guys everywhere, but look at the flowers and candles, there is much more good. The flowers and candles will protect us. There are many comments about the video. Some saying flowers and candles will never protect us, they are weak and powerless. Some saying the Dad missed the point, some applauding the Dad’s response. I think it is a beautiful example of a Dad teaching his son that violence is not the answer. We don’t fight violence with more violence. We don’t retaliate in anger; we notice the good that is still at work in our world. Look around, even in a broken world, goodness is all around too. You might chalk the video up to thinking it is just sweet or comforting, but not realistic. As I think about it the real issue is whether we truly believe and act on the belief that there is more power in love than in evil. Do you believe there is more power in love than evil? …in being God’s presence in a world that is broken. …in being light in darkness. …in showing another way. …in choosing to not take up the weapons of this world…in the big things and in the little things. In our personal relationships, In our workplaces, In our governments, In our nations, In our wars.
We are still fighting for justice, for peace. We fight. But we don’t fight with the weapons of this world. We do not take up anger, revenge, despondency, judgment, guns, bombs.
What weapons of this world do you tend to take-up? What weapons do you need to put down?
See it’s quite easy for me to say that I believe there is more power in love than evil, but then my actions sometimes tell another story. It’s all too easy, when I am hurt, when corruption seems to be winning, when terror strikes the world, for me to make sniper comments, for me to hunker down in safety with those I deem as “on my side”, for me to want revenge. Jesus is teaching me another way. Jesus has another way. I need to put down my weapons.
So, what can we do? What “weapons” do we have to bring to peacemaking?
1. Practice radical hospitality – welcome the stranger and share generously. We tend to gravitate towards those that we deem as “most like us”, instead work to include the stranger, the new, the different from you. Do this in smaller ways, by the friendships you invest in and those you invite to your table. Do this in bigger ways, by embracing the refugee.
2. Advocate - Refuse to take up the weapons of this world, instead support the oppressed or terrorized through advocacy companies, writing your government, and amplifying (not replacing) the voice of the oppressed.
3. Love...even those who are considered enemies. Love casts out fear. It is through love, especially building connections across divides that enemies become friends. Give people hope of the good that is in the world. Give hope of God’s deep work in our world, even among the brokenness and evil. Give hope that you love and care for the Muslim, the refugee, those affected by terrorist attacks.
4. Learn - Educate yourself on the dynamics, background and history of a situation through news, stories, hearing from refugees, advocacy groups and more. You can learn a lot about the refugee situation at http://www.rstp.ca/
5. Pray - It is not just a trite hashtag, it is inviting God’s peace to reign. It is asking for God’s perspective. It is inviting God to give you wisdom and strength to not take up the weapons of this world.
6. Donate/support those affected by the actions and violence of others. You can support the refugee crisis through: http://baptist-atlantic.ca/news/give-to-the-cabc-refugee-sponsorship/ or other links to possibilities across Canada http://cbmin.org/resources/publications/world-at-your-door/sept-2015/
Let me ask again: What weapons of this world do you tend to take-up? What weapons do you need to put down? What Jesus ways do you need to take-up to be a peacemaker?
I’m so thankful we have peacemakers spread across neighbourhoods in Atlantic Canada and across our world.