Tuesday, September 26, 2017

We have sinned by participating in acts of violence

 Matthew 5:27–30

Submitted by Rev. Dr. Daniel J. Ott

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.

Reflection: Repentance is very hard work. It’s almost hard to believe that our beloved, gentle Jesus would say that “if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out . . . if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” But sometimes it seems like something this drastic might actually be necessary if we are to loose ourselves from the bonds of sin.

Thomas Merton wrote, “If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed—but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”[1] It’s too easy to cast rocks at those war-makers, at Obama and his drones, or Trump and his “mother of all bombs.” It’s much harder to look at my greed, my complicity, my failure.

I attended a Presbytery meeting near Peoria, Illinois when the PC(USA) was debating divestment from several companies that were connected with Israeli activities in the Gaza and West Bank. Peoria was at the time the headquarters for Caterpillar, Inc., one of the companies affected by the proposed divestment. Several elders who worked at Caterpillar spoke that day. I don’t remember their arguments for not divesting being particularly strong. Instead, I remember the pain in their voices. One said to the church, “Please, stop embarrassing me.” And in that moment I had compassion. I could see that the man felt stuck, that his two worlds had collided, that his faith was asking something very difficult of him . . . and that he was not prepared to repent, to turn, to break free. Most of the time, I’m not either.

Action: Take an inventory. How do you benefit from injustice, tyranny, and war?

Prayer: I confess that I have sinned by participating in acts of violence, both structural and physical, or by my failure to respond to the acts and threats of violence with ministries of justice, healing, and reconciliation. Amen.

Daniel J. Ott is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Monmouth College, Monmouth Illinois.  His research interests include liberal theology in the twentieth century and Christian approaches to peace and nonviolence.  His articles and review articles have appeared in Political Theology and the American Journal for Theology and Philosophy among others.  He is co-author with Hannah Schell of Christian Thought in America: A Brief History (Fortress Press).

[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, (New York: New Directions, 1961), p. 122.

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:

  1. Peacemaking is essential to our faith.
  2. We have sinned by participating in acts of violence.
  3. We reclaim the power of nonviolent love.
  4. We commit to the study and practice of nonviolence.
  5. 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.


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