We commit to the study and practice of nonviolence
Submitted by Rev. Jessica Hawkinson
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind
about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
Reflection: I can imagine Jonah, red in the face, staring at the still-standing Ninevite city that was supposed to be destroyed. I can imagine him confronting God after forty days of waiting: “I knew it. From the beginning. I knew you were gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. I knew you would change your mind.” It seems totally unfair. In Jonah’s mind, the act of God’s steadfast love becomes a lament and an accusation when it applies to his enemies in Nineveh. The fourth peacemaking affirmation calls the church to commit “to studying and practicing nonviolent means of conflict resolution, nonviolent methods for social change, and nonviolent opposition to war.” The story of Jonah is a wonderful reminder of how difficult it can be when we see God’s nonviolence at work. Jonah’s story is a beloved narrative of childhood Sunday School classes, but it is also a powerful testimony to a God who is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. We would give anything to make sure God looks like us, likes the same people we like, brings judgment upon those we judge. But God has an unrelenting and steadfast love for all of God’s people. Life itself is important. Human beings are worthy of protection by virtue of their humanity alone. And God invites us to believe and participate in this prophetic message too.
Action: Read the book of Jonah in its entirety with a small group. Do you identify with Jonah? With the people of Nineveh? With God? How might the different perspectives captured in this small narrative apply to our own historical context? What would it look like to rewrite the story of Jonah with a contemporary “Nineveh” in mind?
Prayer: Compassionate God, help us to understand that your grace, mercy, and steadfast love are good news for everyone. Your love extends beyond boundaries we can only imagine. Help us learn and practice reconciliation in broken communities. 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.