Plowshares and Swords

God shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
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.
Isaiah 2:4 (NRSV)

My mood is as dark and dreary as the weather as I write this article. I awoke this morning to news of yet another senseless shooting, and news of more lives lost. Although I know I need to write this article, I honestly don’t want to. It isn’t that I don’t want to talk about the topic, but I honestly have hoped and prayed that we would have found a way to stop killing one another. It is past time. The violence simply must stop.

At the same time, I find myself wondering; “What, if anything, can I do about it?” I’m not the one holding the gun. You’re not the ones going on shooting sprees. I am sure that you, like me, are praying daily for the victims of the violent attacks that are becoming all too frequent these days. Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and now Fort Myers… And, I know I’ve missed some. Why is it that we seem to be reading from Joel where plowshares are beaten into swords and pruning hooks into spears, instead of the other way around?

This world we live in is broken, fragmented even. People near and far are hurting and afraid. We, as Disciples of Christ, claim to be a movement for wholeness in the midst of this pain and fragmentation. So, what are we doing? How are we moving to bring that healing and restoration into reality?

I’ve already mentioned the first step in the process, prayer. All too often we turn to prayer as a last resort. When we don’t know what else to do, we pray. I believe we are called to do the exact opposite. Instead of trying everything in our human power then turning to God, we are to turn to God first. Then we use what we discover in prayer to direct our human efforts. Although it may not seem like prayer is all that “effective” in bringing about change, one thing that happens when we pray is that WE are changed. When we pray we begin to see things through God’s eyes, and understand more clearly how we are to then ACT in response to God’s will and spirit.

Another tangible way to effect healing in the world is to train ourselves to recognize and celebrate the humanity of the “other.” You have likely heard me talk about the “radical objectification” which is running rampant in our society. We look at others (and sometimes ourselves) as objects, not people. Furthermore we have a tendency to treat objects as disposable. We care for them while they are useful to our purposes, but when their usefulness is over they are set aside or discarded altogether.

Where objects are useful for completing a task, people have inherent worth. When asked which of the commandments was the greatest, Jesus replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39, NRSV) Jesus clearly commands us to love our neighbors, to treat them with dignity and respect. It is clear we are to treat our neighbors as human beings, not as objects.

But, who is our neighbor? Jesus answers that question with the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan. That well-known story reminds us that everyone, even the person with whom we disagree strongly, is to be treated as our neighbor. In other words, all people deserve to be treated with love and respect.

Our response to the violence of the world begins with prayer and continues as we love and respect others (and ourselves). Those swords and spears won’t become plowshares and pruning hooks overnight. But, we do have God’s promise that one day there will be an end to the violence. Until that day comes I’m going to do my part. I’m going to work each and every day to be the hands and feet of God in my sphere of influence. I pray that you will as well. Together we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.

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