Season of Peace Reflection for 9/30

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

Reflection: In initial conversations with military and diplomatic leaders, veterans, and chaplains in Washington, D.C. and New York, members of the Peace Discernment Steering Team have met persons who have devoted their careers to protecting the United States, sometimes at extreme personal risk, sometimes putting others in harm’s way, and always with a commitment to serve that deserves respect. Some disagree profoundly with the emphasis of this study on nonviolent alternatives, while also disagreeing with some of the military actions and occupations in which they have been involved.

Every congregation or college will have a range of viewpoints and experience on national security matters, and some have explored these in the context of peacemaking ministries in the past.

Beneath the particular campaigns and strategic threats, mature Christians in military and policymaking circles know they are exercising life and death responsibility on an ongoing basis. They understand the military to be a response to violence and evil in the world, not a cause of it.

They pray for wisdom to make the right decisions and forgiveness for their part in any avoidable tragedies. They value the understanding and moral support of the church and find it difficult to consider Jesus’ life and teachings as possibly advocating a position of nonviolence. Yet, in seeking to limit violence as much as possible, their just war positions share some common ground with those who would limit all wars. Both oppose sanctifying national interests or demonizing enemies or calling for unnecessary sacrifices. At West Point, for example, some of the team were told of the dangers of “realism” (as nationalistic self-interest) and of a new emphasis on principles even with training in counterinsurgency, drones, and cyberwarfare. These are voices the church needs to hear, even if it is time to help shift our society more toward peace.

Question for discernment: How do you feel about military force being used to keep peace and maintain security? What are the limits to military action and how can they be applied?

Prayer: O God, we have different perspectives, different points of view, and yet we all remain a part of the Body of Christ. Help us to listen to one another with open hearts and minds and to exercise mutual forbearance toward one another. Enable us to disagree without being disagreeable. Show us that we have far more in common than we have in conflict.

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