Making peace by ending violence
Repenting, one step at a time
Rev. Ginna Bairby
The crowds asked John, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats
must share with the one who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”
Reflection: John the Baptist preaches that salvation is coming, and he calls on the crowds to repent. But repentance is such a broad concept, and there’s so much that requires repentance. The crowds ask for more specific instructions: “What then should we do?”
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of violence in our world. From imperialism to genocide, from racism to Islamophobia, from domestic violence at home to acts of terror in the street, it is too much for the world that God so loves. We can say in theory that we repent of this violence, but where would we even start? What then should we do?
John’s instructions meet his listeners right where they are. Do you have an extra coat or food? Share it. Are you in the tax-collecting business? Stop exploiting the poor. Soldiers? Stop abusing your power and threatening those under your care.
The same is true for us: The process of repentance begins where we stand today. We will not heal all the tragedies of the world or extricate ourselves from the violence and injustices in which we are complicit with one single action. But a small, practical act of repentance in our daily lives may be the most important place to start.
Action: Take some time to today to consider your daily habits. Where is your lifestyle complicit in violence? Where do you have power to make a small and practical change? Maybe you can commit to buying fair-trade coffee or avoiding products made with conflict minerals. Maybe you’ll decide not to listen to music by artists who have been convicted of sexual violence. There’s no wrong place to start to repent.
Prayer: God of the prodigal, we humbly repent of the ways our lives contribute to the violence of this world. Help us to turn back to you. Empowered by your grace, help us to make a change. Amen.
Rev. Bairby is Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Taos, NM. She has worked in the PC(USA)’s Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries and served as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in Peru 2009-2010. She holds an MDiv from Union Presbyterian Seminary.
This year’s A Season of Peace Resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the 29 days of this year’s Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
- What does it mean to commit to Peace?
- Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
- Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
- Making peace by ending violence
- Making peace by supporting refugees and migrants
- Partaking in peace in worship and at table this World Communion Sunday and through the Peace & Global Witness Offering
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 1, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 6.