We have sinned by participating in acts of violence
Submitted by Rev. Jessica Hawkinson
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another
has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder;
You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Reflection: The second affirmation of peacemaking calls the church to recognize the ways that we participate in violence, “both structural and physical, or by our failure to respond to acts and threats of violence with ministries of justice, healing, and reconciliation.” In every community where I have lived, there has been violence in some form. I have seen it in domestic violence behind the doors of wealthy suburban homes. I have seen it in gun violence that destroys families and communities in cities from coast to coast; poverty that strips communities of dignity and human rights; the injustices of systems trusted to seek justice; the awkward moment when someone asks for spare change on the subway. There are so many violences, sadnesses, and warfares waged in our daily lives. Because we are human and flawed, we sin by participating in acts of violence. Not a single one of us is exempt from this sin. Every commandment we have been given by God is rooted in love. Not love of oneself, or love of comfort, or love of certainty. To love one’s neighbor is to be fully immersed in the commanding love of God.
Action: Work with an intergenerational group in your community to learn more about your neighborhood and the neighborhoods that surround it. How do these communities embody love? How do they embody violence? Find ways to partner in acts of reconciliation and community-building.
Prayer: Forgiving and loving God, make us conscious of our sin. Help us recognize the ways that we are complicit in acts of violence against ourselves and our neighbors. Teach us the value of walking through darkness into light. Amen.
Jessica Hawkinson is Associate Chaplain and Director of the Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth at Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois. She previously served for two years at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and as a member of the PCUSA Peace Discernment steering team. She is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (M. Div) and Macalester College.
This year’s Path of Peace reflections are based on the Five Affirmations to Guide the Peacemaking Witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Writers were recruited to help us explore the following affirmations as each week of A Season of Peace unfolds:
- Peacemaking is essential to our faith.
- We have sinned by participating in acts of violence.
- We reclaim the power of nonviolent love.
- We commit to the study and practice of nonviolence.
- We will practice boldly the things that make for peace.
Each author writes Monday–Friday, beginning with the first affirmation and ending with the fifth. The authors represent a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts, and each week presents a new ‘voice’ to walk you through the affirmations. The weekend devotions, written by the editor, also reflect the five affirmations. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 3, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 1.