. . . Colin Saxton is NWYM Superintendent . .. . . . .
Last summer, I was invited to attend Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) to speak on the spiritual basis for the Friends peace testimony. Together, we walked through the whole of Scripture—from creation, through the fall, alongside the prophets, right up to God’s greatest act of peacemaking—Christ’s life, death and resurrection. To conclude, we considered Jesus’ often repeated phrase “go in peace” to those around Him and what it meant and means for disciples to be sent out into the world as ministers of reconciliation.
Before going to PYM I checked out their website for their peace-related queries. Most of them, like most of our own are strategic. That is, the questions are framed so that we might consider the particular choices we make in light of the circumstances we are in. There was one query on their website—the one I was hoping to find—that was more foundational and on which all of the others really ought to rest. They express it this way:
Do I live in the power of that Life and Spirit that takes away the occasion of all wars?
Sit with that for just a moment, will you?
This is a soul-shaker of a question—at least for me. What it does not ask is whether I know what the Bible teaches on peacemaking or non-violence. It does not ask what I will do if confronted with an armed robber in my home. Neither does it ask me if I am committed to following the example set by Jesus when it comes to forgiving others. Those are all good questions for those of us who call ourselves disciples. The original query, however, moves the whole issue beyond just me and what I will try to do. Rather, this question forces me to reflect on whether or not I am genuinely abiding in the active power and presence of God. To say it another way: Is Christ so real in me that I am becoming like Him? Like I said, this is a soul-shaking query…
I know that a few of you think I focus a bit too much on our peace testimony. The funny thing about that criticism, however, is that I am not sure I even like our peace testimony! It is hard and uncomfortable! In some ways, it would be much easier to just go on being me…angry, unforgiving, protective of my own stuff and space. I am actually pretty good at being argumentative, aggressive and rude. All of those qualities feel much more natural in many ways than the Christian life. All of this love, grace, forgiveness, accepting persecution, even laying down my life for others…I don’t know, it just seems so unnatural.
Sometimes, when I hear people talk about non-violence they make it sound like good ‘ole common sense. If everyone would just stop to think about it for a moment, we would all realize that war, hatred, racism, violence, abuse, etc., are plain wrong and so we will do the obvious: Stop.
But it hasn’t quite worked that way, has it? For many people, a commitment to non-violence or radical forgiveness or mercy or even compassion makes no sense at all, at least in some circumstances. It is, for them, completely unnatural to even consider it as an option.
If you are reading this, however, you likely know that the veil between what is natural and what is unnatural gets lifted when the supernatural is involved. Darkness gives way to light. Good overcomes evil. Truth exposes lies. Grace cancels debts. And the life-changing power of the Spirit makes possible in us what we cannot otherwise accomplish on our own.
But more than helping us to see life from a new perspective or simply offering a new motive for behavior, life in Christ provides transforming power and divine wisdom. Thankfully, when it comes to being a more peaceable people we are not left to our own devices.
So…do you live in the power of that Life and Spirit that takes away the occasion for all wars? But let’s even be more daring with this question, shall we? Let’s try expanding it just a bit. What about all fear? Do I live in the power of that Life and Spirit that takes away that, too? Or how about all frenzy? All bitterness? All selfishness? All need to control? All need to be noticed? All need to get my way? Do we live in the power of that Life and Spirit that takes away the occasion for each of them?
I want to live in that Life and Spirit don’t you? For me, anyway, it happens not so much by greater effort but by moving closer and by going deeper into Christ. This, in my mind, is the spiritual basis for our peace testimony. Oh, I believe it is spelled out clearly in Scripture and I certainly believe there are strategic choices and acts of obedience that come with it. My point is simply that the power to really live up to and into that calling is not something I can muster.
In my experience, the call to be a peacemaker came and comes from the supernatural Presence and Power of Christ in me. It is the same Spirit that moves me toward being faithful in ministry, toward being a good father, toward being a good steward of creation, toward speaking the truth, toward sharing the Good News with others, toward becoming a holy man. It is that inner yearning–but more than a yearning, an enabling power–that moves us beyond what feels natural to something wonderfully supernatural. Blessings to each of you as you live in Christ so that you may live out His Kingdom!
- Do I live in the power of Jesus’ life and spirit?
- Who are people around me who show signs of doing so?
- How might we work together to encourage each other?
- What would it mean for me to go deeper into Christ?