I have been meditating on this theme for about a month now. It was about that long ago when we had a parish mission focusing on the Gospel of Nonviolence. It sounds as if this is something different from the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, or at least a side issue devolving from it. I think that is how I first perceived it. But I am seeing more and more that the two are actually one and the same.
Consider for a moment what our Lord taught us in the Sermon on the Mount. We are told not to resist evil, to turn the other cheek, and to love our enemies. This is the essence of nonviolence. Jesus further modeled this concept for us by His life, and most prominently, by His death. He calls us sheep, and the words of the prophets agree reminding us that we too are led like sheep to the slaughter. Sheep offer no resistance. The image of sheep is not a warrior image. Our Lord Himself is most prominently displayed as the Lamb of God.
So the way of nonviolence is the way of our Lord. It is the way of the cross. It is to recognize that the only way to eternal life is through death. Jesus conquered at the cross. Through death He destroyed death. We too will ultimately conquer all our enemies through death. For it is only in death that we will finally be freed from the concupiscence of our flesh. We await a better resurrection, and eternal life. The meek indeed inherit the earth because only they are deemed worthy of eternal life.
Now this sounds great in theory, but living it out is a completely different matter. What if someone attacks us or our loved ones? How do we respond to terrorist threats in our world? What about our obligation to defend the poor, helpless, and oppressed? These are real questions needing real answers. The Gospel of Nonviolence, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, does not so much offer positions as it does principles. We see how our Lord lived and died. We hear what He taught us. We observe how that was consistently lived out by the earliest Christians. Then we are called to respond in faithful obedience. We may not understand. We may not agree. We may still find our old habits of vengeance, anger, and violence rising up. But we are disciples. We are called to follow our Master, no matter what. "If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. No one is greater than his Master."
Now today I have to live this out. I hear my son is being bullied at school. I want to respond. I won't stand for this. I will do whatever it takes to keep it from happening. And I see how hard it is to truly live this out. I cannot hate. I cannot respond in kind. I do not teach him self defense and tell him it's all right to go after this kid. I can't do any of those things. Sure, I talk to teachers, administrators, etc. But after that, I really do need to leave it with God and pray, not only for my son's safety, but that he too will have the Grace to respond in a Christ-like manner. I pray that he will not be poisoned by resentment and hatred, but that he will learn to forgive and love.
This Gospel is not easy to live out, but it is the Truth nevertheless. I can amend it if I choose, but then I choose the false security of lies over the Truth. I will not do it. I don't yet understand it all. I don't have all the answers. But I know there is a powerful truth here waiting to be lived out by each one of our Lord's disciples. I can only do my part and pray I do it well.