Casting Out Demons in the Mirror
Henry Koenig Stone
“Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (NRSV)
John 8:7, NRSV
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Reflection: As we spend this month reflecting on ways to practice peacemaking, it is important not to skip the first step: wrestling with the causes of conflict.
Both personal and group conflicts often find their roots in the same human drives. Ego and lust for power can drive international conflicts just as surely as they do financial crimes. Fear of the “Other” leads down parallel paths to individual discrimination, racist structures and violence against immigrants and religious minorities. Personal insecurity, another form of fear, can lead to overt abuse or reinforce subtle forms of toxic masculinity or manipulation in relationships. It can also stop us from being willing to learn about the ways in which we, or the world, are failing each other. If we wish to be peacemakers in our relationships, communities and the world, we must first look within ourselves.
Can we really ever “cast out the demons” of fear, anger and hate? Can we ever silo away the impacts of growing up in societies full of racial stereotypes and toxic gender-power dynamics? No, not completely. Jesus acknowledges in John 8 that we are all sinful, all flawed. Not even he picks up a stone. But he does call us to do harder work: to look in the mirror and cast out the log in our own eye.
Although war, injustice and violence are present at every scale of human interaction, the work of peacemaking starts within. This week, let us think about the tools we need to unpack the parts of ourselves that are most in need of Jesus’ grace, forgiveness and repair.
Practice for Peacemakers: Identify an area of peacemaking in which you feel disengaged or uninformed, and sit down for some self-education. You could choose to read “The New Jim Crow” or read a text on intersectional feminism. If you are feeling particularly brave, try and identify ways in which your own emotions are influenced by society’s biases, assumptions and values. You can do this on your own or in conversation with a trusted friend or therapist.
As you do any or all of the above, make sure this week to remember that there is room for grace. None of us have the self-control to be peacemakers at all times and in all places — and that is why it is so important that we be intentional about the work of peacemaking.
Prayer: Dear God, please forgive us when we approach peacemaking through the lens of judgment, rather than grace. Help us to look within ourselves and see the potential for your light, and then help us to approach our relationships, our community, and our world as makers of your Peace. Amen.
Henry Koenig Stone is the editor for this year’s Season of Peace Reflections. An activist and public policy wonk, he has previously served as editor of “Unbound” in Louisville, KY, and as associate for young adult social witness to the Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy.
This year’s Season of Peace Resources are designed to help participants explore practices for building peace on every scale. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Throughout the 29 days of the 2020 Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
Week 1 September 6–12: Peace Within
Week 2 September 13–19: Peace in Relationships
Week 3 September 20–26: Peace in Community
Week 4 September 27–October 3: Peace in the World
Final Day October 4: Holistic Peacemaking
Thank you Henry for this great themed reflection. I and many of my friends are grappling with inner and out peace. I’d like to add that the book The New Jim Crow cast the scales off my eyes and at the same time answered some questions I had about our justice system. I highly recommend it to folks.