I consider peace and nonviolence a central part of what it means to follow the way of Jesus. I don’t hold this belief lightly and realize how complex it can be (ignorant to some) to maintain such a position in such a violent world. It’s hard to live nonviolently. Just ask my 3-year-old son.
It was storytime last week and my son picked a bible storybook - the Easter story. We got to the part where there were soldiers guarding the tomb and he asked where Jesus went. He was genuinely concerned. “Where’s Jesus?” I told him not worry, Jesus was coming back (I’m such a pastor, I know!). This was his immediate response:
“And I’m gonna fight the soldiers!”
What!?! So much for a teachable moment on eschatological hope!
It seems whatever the age, nonviolence is not natural.
“Now what?” I thought.
Thinking on my feet as any good pastor should do in a theological emergency I brought us back to an earlier part of the story. “I think Jesus would rather we washed their feet” I suggested.
“That’s what Jesus would want us to do.”
That was enough for him. He got excited. He liked my idea! Phew... I’d quelled the violent tendencies of my 3-year-old. “I showed him nonviolence!” was my mental pat on the back.
“Goodnight son” (more mental pats on the back).
Not so fast.
“Let’s give them cookies too, Dad.”
“Um, yeah, of course.”
My moral superiority met genuine generosity. Roles reversed. I wanted to be a good dad, to limit my son’s violence. My son wanted to be a good person, to expand his generosity.
At their innocent best, kids don’t easily draw lines or limit their generosity (unless toys are involved). If we’re going to wash their feet (i.e. “love our enemies”), well, obviously we’ll give them cookies. In my son’s mind, loving the bad people shouldn't have limits.
There shouldn’t be limits to loving with peace and nonviolence. It’s a whole way of life as we live and relate to a violent world. Peace, after all, is giving them cookies too!