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Friday, 4 November 2011

Waging Nonviolence

Some extracts from a recent sermon at Canberra Baptist, Waging nonviolencel by Thorwald Lorenzen, reminded me of how central to the heart of Jesus' call to discipleship, this practice is.The full sermon is available, in both audio and transcript at the above link on the Canberra Baptist website. The following extracts get to the heart of the matter:
... the grand narrative of our faith is unambiguous and clear: in a violent world, Jesus introduced a new way of being: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God!"
The early Christians followed Jesus in that. For the first three hundred years Christians refused military service and tried to live nonviolently. But then, in the 4th century, when the church became interlocked with the Roman government, the church also became involved with war and violence.
While acknowledging the failure of the church we should, Thorwald argues, move to a way of being where nonviolence, rather than violence, is the default position. The Sermon on the Mount, and the Beatitudes do not call for a passive approach to engagement with the world.
A commitment to nonviolence in a violent world is not weakness but strength. It means marching out of step with the ways of the world. It invites us to swim against the stream. A commitment to nonviolence does not mean being passive or withdrawing from responsibility for life. Nonviolence must be pursued. It must be actively lived. It must be waged!
... On the basis of the resurrection of the Crucified One, we may therefore speak of nonviolence as God's way of being....On that basis we can affirm in a world of war and violence, that peacemakers are the children of God. We can confess in a world where political, economic and military power seems to dictate what is right and what is wrong, that ultimately the meek will inherit the earth.
 How then can we live this new way of being?
May I remind you that we have already done so. With our faith in Christ and our baptism into his sphere of influence we have been born to a new way of living. We only need to remind each other what this new way of living is, otherwise we easily fall back into the old ways of violence.

Intentionally with our prayers, our words and our actions we can tune in to the new consciousness of letting Christ rule our lives. We shall then be kind with each other, we shall walk softly on the earth, and we shall seek new and nonviolent ways to deal with human conflicts.
We need to examine and unmask elements in our thinking about God and the church to see whether violence has crept into our language and thoughts. Whatever we think and do, it must be an echo to the central Christian confession that "God is love" and that God is the “God of Peace”.
We can encourage our churches and our government to contribute to the United Nations Millenium Development Goals. The reduction of poverty and injustice and the empowerment of the oppressed are more effective antidotes to terrorism than the ever turning spiral of violence. 
There is no better way to end than to remember the words from the prophets Isaiah and Micah that are hewn into the United Nations Headquarters in New York:
"They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more."


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