I’m sitting on my back porch, drinking coffee, listening to birdsong and the steady burble of creek waters tumbling over jutted rocks, and, in the distance, staccato bursts of automatic weapon fire – a neighbor’s morning target practice.
The jarring sound sends chills up my spine. I think of those who warn that we’re on the threshold of civil war and must prepare to protect what’s ours. I don’t know about that. I do know we grow more divided by the day, which makes it seem plausible. As for protecting what’s ours, I ask myself what Jesus would do, right here, right now, in this culture, this nation, during this time in history? It’s an important thing to think about because those who claim to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)
I go to the gospels because there I find the life he lived, the footsteps I must follow. In these pages, I find that the One who calls us to take up our cross and follow him promises persecution, suffering, hatred, and death on the path he walked. I hear him ask us to share with the needy, practice generous hospitality, open our doors to the stranger, and lay down our lives. He commands us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Bless those who curse us. If someone slaps one cheek, offer him the other. If someone demands our coat, give him our shirt as well. Give to anyone who asks, Jesus said, and when things are taken away, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
Jesus made it clear that his kingdom is not of this world, nor are his followers. In our increasingly polarized and violent times, his commands sound hard, even impossible. But it helps to remember that Jesus initially spoke these words of peace, love, and generosity to a brutally subjugated people who were waiting for a warrior king to free them from oppressive Roman rule. Then, as now, he expects his disciples to hear his words, take them seriously, and obey them – no matter what.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. – Matthew 5:9-10 (NLT)