“The followers of Christ have been called to peace. . . . And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods. . . . His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they over-come evil with good, and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.” Dietrich Bonheoffer, The Cost of Discipleship
“Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called children of God.” – Jesus of Nazareth
Bonheoffer was a great man who paid the ultimate price during WWII for his stand for peace. While many Christian churches and theologians were silent during the holocaust, Bonheoffer was busy instructing and encouraging cleric and congregations in the ways of resistance. Overcoming evil with good is not an easy task. It is also a costly task. It is a task that requires patience. Ghandi, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Dorothy Day, William Booth, The Dali Lama, Elie Wiesel, Mother Teresa, Benizer Bhutto, and Bonheoffer and many more displayed not only patience but courage in their fight against darkness. What all of the above mentioned people understood was the need to take action against violence and words that insight violence. That sense of patience can also come at a great cost as Bonheoffer and many others learned. I think that we often turn toward other solutions when we lose patience. It seems that we feel that we need to speed up the process and advance the cause. Sadly, that process of forcing peace never works. Violence does not bring about peace.
There is a great cost to discipleship. Bonheoffer reminds us that Jesus himself choose suffering over violence. He reminds us that the disciples too were called to peace and to make peace by enduring suffering rather than inflicting it on others. For Bonheoffer, being a peacemaker meant going to the gallows. History tells us that he did so completely at peace. While he died violently, he died prayerfully. What does being a peacemaker mean for you and for me? Are we willing to pay the cost of our modern day discipleship? By in large, the gallows are not waiting for us if we speak in the name of Jesus against violence, hatred, war, prejudice, sexism, racism, homophobia, violence against women, human trafficking, or any form of ignorance in any of its’ major forms. We may have to suffer judgement. Perhaps we might have an uncomfortable conversation. Maybe we won’t be invited back for dinner. But we would know that we are renouncing hatred and violence, which is a call of our baptism. We would know that we are maintaining relationships with those that others would not (Jesus seems to encourage this as well). And as Bonheoffer notes, we would know that we are “over-coming evil with good, and establishing the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.”
“Blessed are they when they persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.” – Jesus of Nazareth