Come back in time with me to a period a long time ago (well, 1980) in a galaxy far, far away, in Star Wars V (The Empire Strikes Back)…
The other day, like a zillion other people, my son was working his way through watching the original Star Wars trilogy in preparation for seeing The Force Awakens, when I walked into the room and witnessed the following dialogue:
“I’m looking for a great warrior,” says Luke to Yoda.
“Ohh, great warrior? Wars not make one great,” gently retorts the little green giant of wisdom, in inimitable Yoda style.
A few weeks ago the media and especially social media were awash with anti-war sentiments as Parliament debated, voted and agreed on the decision to unleash air strikes in Syria.
Protests followed, mostly peaceful ones, by those genuinely concerned about the impact strikes would have on innocent people, not to mention the disingenuousness of spending millions on war while austerity measures at home are depriving the most vulnerable and driving more and more people to food banks and homelessness.
One of the anti-war campaigners, Helen Pattinson, asked: “How come they can find money to drop bombs on other countries to create refugees… but they can’t find money for health, for education, and for young people to have a decent future?” This sentiment has been a common thread running through public opinion.
There was and is understandable anger at Government policy over these issues. It is absolutely right to be outraged at injustice, at an adamantine Government that seems hell-bent on hurting the vulnerable and making them pay (even with their lives, in some cases) for the greed of bankers and tax-evaders.
There were apparently some who expressed their anger through abusive phone calls and letters to Stella Creasy and other MPs. But these seemed to be the exception rather than the rule.
Mostly, peaceful expressions advocating peace inundated the streets, the internet and conversation.
What surprised me was my own internal response. As I concurred with popular anti-war statements and ‘liked’ memes opposing airstrikes, I became acutely aware that none of this will do much to change the warmongering minds of western Governments or eastern terrorists, and yet I can effect peace where I am.
I found myself more motivated than usual to proffer grace to people I sometimes find difficult; to overcome potential, minor, everyday conflicts with expressions of compassion; to promote peace through words of kindness in my own networks of friends, family and community, in my own limited way. I can start where I am. And I can hope and pray that others may do the same.
An old saying goes something like: I can’t change others; I can change myself; others might change in response to the change they see in me.
And who knows what difference our own interpersonal efforts at peace might make across the globe, in a butterfly-effect kind of way? Genuinely.
Over recent years I’ve been enthralled by Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. I’ve read their biographies, watched films about their lives, and been deeply inspired by their passionate embrace of nonviolent resistance. All of them were themselves inspired by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, whether or not they all embraced Christianity.
Gandhi famously (or infamously) declared: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Jesus (not Christianity) was their teacher and example.
In a similar vein, the first step in my walk towards Christ was a reading of the Sermon on the Mount. There I was quietly minding my own business, taking a look at the Bible for the first time, just out of curiosity, when I was blown away by Jesus’ audacious ideas about forgiving people who hurt us, about loving enemies and praying blessings on them. Looking back, I know something began to shift spiritually deep inside this (then) atheist. I would never be the same.
But how hard it can be to live this out, right? Who can forgive those who commit atrocities against us, our neighbours, or even our loved ones? How can we love enemies?
Well, my answer is: Christ in me.
Christ in you, too?
All I know is that when Christ started to live by his Spirit in me, my whole attitude started to change on the inside.
That same passion that lived in King, Mandela and Gandhi, lives in me. That passion to overturn war with peace; to overcome hatred with love.
It’s one of the reasons I will never insult our politicians, however horrified I am by their policies, however strongly I might speak out about the impact their decisions make on our society.
Christ in me energises me, motivates me, continues to shape my heart. And I find that it’s through wars, rumours of wars, injustices, or more often just my own everyday relational challenges, that he spurs me on to strive in his strength for peace.
War and conflict only serve to make me more determined to pursue the way of peace.
Some of the more ‘religious’ Christmas cards remind us that one of the names given to Jesus by his followers over the years is ‘Prince of Peace’, and he calls his followers to be like him:
“Blessed are the peacemakers (yes, that’s right, peacemakers, not cheese-makers, you Python fans) – for they shall be called children of God”, explains Jesus in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Wars do not make one great; rather, making and promoting peace reflects the great heart of God.
This Christmas, next year and every year, maybe together, in our own little ways, you and I can help restore peace and justice to the galaxy.
 Gospel of Matthew: chapters 5-7: worth a read!
(Wondering what this blog is all about, and who A Child of Grace is?
Please read my About page. Thanks! Roger N)