We reclaim the power of nonviolent love
Submitted by Rev. Roger Scott Powers
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
Reflection: Gandhi once said: “The only people on earth who do not see Christ and his teachings as nonviolent are Christians.”
At the heart of Jesus’ nonviolent ethic is his teaching to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Of all Jesus’ teachings, it’s one of the most difficult to follow. Indeed, many Christians tend to ignore these words of Jesus, dismissing them as too impractical and idealistic to be taken seriously.
Jesus’ teaching about loving one’s enemies has nothing to do with being passive in the face of injustice or acquiescing to evil. Rather, it has everything to do with standing up to evil and injustice, offering a third way to respond to conflict other than fighting back violently or running away.
Far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus was just the opposite. He was a practical realist. He recognized that hating those who hate us only increases hate in the world. That doesn’t get us anywhere. Only love can counter hate. Love is the only force with the potential of transforming enemies into friends.
Perhaps you’ve seen the bumper sticker: “When Jesus said love your enemies, I’m pretty sure he meant don’t kill them.” Indeed! Jesus offers us a means of responding to our enemies without killing them, without resorting to violence. Would that more Christians would embrace Jesus’ “third way” of nonviolence.
Action: Deepen your understanding of Jesus’ nonviolent witness using the journal resource Resurrection Living: Journeying with the Nonviolent Christ, available from Presbyterian Distribution Service.
Prayer: Loving God, help us to see our enemies through your eyes—as your children, as our sisters and brothers, members of the one human family. Give us the moral imagination to step into their shoes, that we might better understand how they view the world. Help us to find some common ground between us. Amen.
Rev. Roger Scott Powers is pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque. He has worked with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship for many years. He is also co-editor of a 640-page encyclopedia of nonviolent action entitled Protest, Power, and Change.
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.