The truth can hurt

When the ways of people please the Lord,
    he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them. – Proverbs 16:7

Try to critique Israel and/or Hamas about the violence in Gaza and this tends to happen…

For those of us not directly in the conflict:

If we truly want peace, we need to start learning how to humbly speak with and listen to each other about the multi-layered costs and causes of war and violence. We need to love our enemy enough to listen to their hopes and fears while seeking to protect and speak for all victims of violence – not just those who reflect the more popular cause of the day.

Instead, we tend to settle for half-truths about the situation presented through emotionally manipulating, agenda driven pictures, memes and reporting. We have educated, peace proclaiming people that present themselves as fair minded but won’t even try to listen to the points made by those on the other side of an issue. It apparently proves easier to dehumanize and condemn others as “enemy.”  We see people in the West calling for peace while throwing stones (or worse).

If simplistically declaring fault only on one side in a conflict with many to blame throughout history and violations on both sides, we are at risk of unfairly choosing a side while representing ourselves as an impartial judge. We can make the opposition feel even more trapped and thus more aggressive. We can miss opportunities for outreach and peace overtures. Even if we feel violence is necessary or one party more responsible than another for the current state of affairs, making broad, one-sided assertions is a mistake. War is always more complicated than that.

Many choices we make can inhibit prayerful, productive discernment. Having only like-minded friends isn’t a sign of intellectual honesty or broad thinking. Reading only sources you tend to agree with tends to lead to warped thinking. Cutting off from those who disagree with us is to be left for the most toxic of circumstances, not our first recourse. Attacking the messengers who challenge our beliefs or seek to call us to account is wrong. It should instead lead us to introspection and honest discussion. Are they right? Could we do better? Is there another way? If they are wrong, we can perhaps point them toward a greater understanding.

In such a society, this tendency to humiliate and defeat our adversaries (often while anonymous) facilitates more fear and violence. It smothers honest discussion and important questions. It promotes closed mindedness. It limits new understandings and possibilities. It helps lead to more injury and war. This will never be a road to reconciliation, justice and peace.

These are not enlightened, loving behaviors. It is sin.

“But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…'”

Its past time for repentance. It is time to grow up and admit that loving our enemy is always hard, but it is always what we need to strive to do. It is time to listen and not just shout. It is time to honor our God by loving our neighbor, even those we disagree with.

Someone may always choose us as their enemy or resist reconciliation. We are powerless over that, but we don’t have fall into their trap. Jesus has shown us a better way.

 

© 2014 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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3 Comments

Filed under peace, social justice, Uncategorized

3 responses to “The truth can hurt

  1. John J Flanagan

    We who follow Jesus will agee with the spirit and intent of your words, however, for as much as we desire peace, there are wicked man killers in the world, as well as peacemakers. Those who are without pity, without remorse, diligent in pursuit of violence, can only be stopped with their total destruction, lest you allow evil men to destroy your loved ones, plunder your cities, remove or enslave your people. The Israeli people have acted with forebearance, but they must defend themselves against those who will destroy them from the face of the earth. Since Hamas places missiles near hospitals and schools, daring Israel to fight back, then the blood of Palestinian civilians is on the hands of Hamas.

    • As a former soldier and police officer, I agree with you in some respect, John. Indeed, I can’t claim to be a pacifist, and I believe Israel has a right to defend itself. (You might look at Martin Luther’s essay, “Can a soldier be saved” for a glimpse at my own views.) In fact, my intended criticism was primarily aimed at many who claim to support Palestinians and peace, yet don’t even recognize the immorality of the missiles being shot at Israel, human shields, etc. Yet, I also challenge others who support Israel as I do. I think we should be open to criticism about any use of force, because it is easy to slip into unintended moral and ethical lapses when using force and facing a determined enemy. Excesses happen and hearts can grow cold. Innocent people are harmed. I don’t have to attack those who bring this up. (This happens in police work and such things happen in war.) It can challenge me to do better. Even if we believe in the right for self-defense, I think we humbly have to be on guard against our own sin. I found praying for my enemy and trying to understand them helps me if nothing else. This essay was mostly in response to simplistic news reports and social media posts I have read; not meant for those in active combat nor to address the root cause of the conflict. In the west, people are talking at one another and calling one another names. People are condemning innocent Jews and Muslims for the actions of others countries if not continents away. If we claim to be people of peace, we need fact based, reasonable conversation and reflection, not manipulation of data and images that promotes riots against innocent Jews or Muslims or tells half the story. We need to listen as well as talk. We need to desire justice for all, but also be opened to looking at our own faults and the opportunities for mercy. Reconciliation requires the willingness of all parties involved, but it has to start with one being open to it – even as we might be needing to use (or support) deadly force for survival.

    • John, I have updated my post to hopefully make my point more clear. Thanks for your comment.

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