Jim Wallis in God’s Politics states, “When a head of state is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 of his people and has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians — the world needs to respond. In one massive attack, the evidence appears to show that 1,429 people, including 400 children, suffered horrible deaths from chemical weapons banned by the international community. That is a profound moral crisis that requires an equivalent moral response. Doing nothing is not an option. But how should we respond, and what are moral principles for that response?”
Our initial response to injustice since the beginning of time has been to respond with violence. We may give lip-service to diplomacy and political solutions. But reality is that as long as war is an option, we will not have the creative imagination required to consider other options.
As a follower of the one who is considered the Prince of Peace, I believe there is another way. The way of Jesus is the way of peace. Peace cannot be forced. Justice will not lead to peace when it is imposed by the strong on the weak. The Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew given by Jesus teaches that the way of Jesus is to be meek, merciful, pure, devoted to peacemaking, and willing to suffer persecution. The follower of Jesus is challenged to reveal the character of God in the world and that is nowhere more resolutely shown than in the teaching of Jesus on loving our enemies. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44, 45).
I am a realist and recognize that we live in a world that assumes war and violence as a viable solution to the conflicts in our world. I also understand that the talk of “loving your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you” sounds too religious or other-worldly for some to consider in the world of international politics. However, I have entrusted myself to a community that teaches the way to peace and justice is through forgiveness and reconciliation instead of power and aggression. In a world that is trying to justify itself in going to war, we need communities courageous and creative enough to live differently.
Bishop Kenneth Carder, resident bishop of the Florida area of the United Methodist Church, says, “Because we are weary of two extended wars over the past twelve years; And because these two extended wars have done great harm to people in these countries and to our own sons and daughters; And because the civil wars in these countries are profoundly complex and defy quick solutions; And because persecuted Christians in Syria anticipate increased danger to them in the event of a military strike; And because violence always leads to violence, and retaliation to retaliation; May we seek first to do no harm, resisting the temptation to return violence for violence; May we stay engaged in the present trauma of the Syrian people, but with a broad coalition of partners; May we not lose interest in Syria because we are not at war with them; May we pray for those in positions of leadership, that our hearts of stone will become hearts of flesh; May we claim the truth of our prayer: 'Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.'”