By Charles Carney
Since Aug. 11, I have done my Peace Walk 6-9 miles a day, with a support driver, and am about halfway from Wichita, KS, to Kansas City, MO. In a switch of drivers, I found myself back home for a short break. So I took the chance to talk about my Peace Walk during the Sunday service Aug. 29 at the First Central Church of the Brethren, which sits in the Central Avenue corridor in Kansas City, KS.
Apropos of peace, a friend and long-time church member, Nancy Kurtz, presented the following Brethren Moment, a brief reflection, during the service. I’m happy, here, to share her words!
“Has someone ever hit you? Have you ever had something stolen from you? Has anyone ever begged from you or asked to borrow from you? Have you ever hated someone? Have you ever been bullied? What do you do?
“Listen to what Jesus said about those situations—in Matthew 5:38-48: ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your God in heaven. God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your God in heaven is perfect.’
“Ouch! That’s a hard teaching, isn’t it? It’s hard when someone hurts you not to hurt them back. It’s a common human feeling to want to retaliate. You want to hate them. You want to fight back. So it’s hard not to. It’s harder not to fight back than it is to give in to your anger and do something or say something harmful in return. But Jesus said we should not try to even the score in a conflict situation. The examples he gave of provocation include physical insult, legal action, political pressure, and financial rip-off. And our response should always be to love and pray for those who oppose us. In fact, the example of his life and the manner of his death, when he suffered on the cross and prayed for forgiveness for his enemies rather than fighting back, show us that we also must suffer rather than retaliate.
“Since its founding, the Church of the Brethren has used this passage as one of those to support their stance on peace. But it goes further than that. Our understanding is that we also should never sue anybody in court and we should never take a life of another person for any reason. If you think about it, if a conflict is ever to end, someone has to take the first step of not fighting back. On the surface, the approach which Jesus recommends may appear to be acquiescence or weakness. But it is not. It is an aggressive action to resolve conflict rather than to try to correct grievances. It is a command to love in the purest sense.”