In this time of wars and rumors of war, it’s a good time to review my blogs about wise ways to end violence, curtail the use of force, and embrace the Spirits of Peace and Compassion. I believe that the hardness of people’s hearts sometimes forces us to wield force wisely to defend against the Spirit of Violence and the Spirit of Cruelty at the same time that we are embracing the Spirit of Peace and the Spirit of Compassion. Systems matter! In civilizations, we need to shape our laws and customs in wise ways that end violence, curtail the use of force, and embrace the Spirits of Peace and Compassion.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).
In this time of war and rumors of war, I think it is a good time for me to summarize some of the blogs I’ve written about how to be a peacemaker—how to end violence, curtail the use of force, and embrace the Spirits of Peace and Compassion.
As I was writing my book Hoping in the LORD, (based upon the Gospels), I reached the story of the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Along with a “large crowd armed with swords and clubs” (Matthew 26:47), there was “a detachment of soldiers and some officials . . . carrying torches, lanterns and weapons” (John 18:3).
Trying to help Jesus, Peter cut off the right ear of a person named Marcus. (John 18:10). Jesus told Peter: “Put your sword back in its place . . . for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:50-52).
As I explained in Hoping in the LORD:
[M]y first impulse was to leave out the name of the person whose ear was cut off. Why clutter the narrative with this detail?
But then I realized that it is always easier to use violence against someone if they are a faceless person without a name.
Therefore, it is always important and worth remembering that each person who is hurt by violence has a name.
That is a major reason why the Vietnam Memorial on the Mall in Washington is so moving. It is ‘nothing’ but a long black wall inscribed with the names of the over 50,000 people who died serving the United States in Vietnam. But it is almost impossible not to cry as you touch a name and realize that it is the name of a person who loved life as much as we all do.
In a similar way, the Holocaust Museum in Washington brings home the mind-numbing horror of the Holocaust. How can we ever grasp an evil so terrifying and cruel that it slaughtered millions of innocent people? By giving each visitor the name of a person who endured the Holocaust. By letting that visitor follow the suffering and the ‘crucifixion’ of an innocent person with a name.
(Hoping in the LORD, at pages 259-260 (first published in 2004)).
We must flee from practices that escalate violence—the Spirit of Violence.
We must curtail practices of tit-for-tat violence provided more than 3,000 years ago by the Law of Moses because of the hardness of people’s hearts—the Spirit of Force.
We must embrace the ideals of the Law of Moses and the Prophets as taught by Jesus—the Spirit of Peace and the Spirit of Compassion.
When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
All too often, the hammer goes astray, marring the wood. Or hurting the thumb of whoever wields the hammer.
Therefore, as much as feasible, we need to replace hammers and nails with brushes and glue.
When designing and building military forces, we need to make weapons as non-destructive and as accurate as possible. In this way, the destruction and the number of deaths will be as low as feasible, especially among civilians.
Regardless of the types of weapons being used, their effects on property and on people need to be proportionate to the threat against which we are defending ourselves and others.
Otherwise, we are retaliating by escalating the use of force in order to hurt other people more than they hurt us. We are acting in the Spirit of Violence. We are acting in the Spirit of Cruelty.
Similarly, inflicting injury, rape or death on civilians is using force in the Spirit of Violence—in the Spirit of Cruelty.
Committing genocide is using force in the Spirit of Violence—in the Spirit of Cruelty.
Destroying communities of wisdom is using force in the Spirit of Violence—in the Spirit of Cruelty.
Destroying civilian infrastructure (such as bridges and power grids) is using force in the Spirit of Violence—in the Spirit of Cruelty.
Hurting future generations by leaving behind land mines, toxic chemicals, or radiation is using force in the Spirit of Violence—in the Spirit of Cruelty.
Such longterm impacts on non-combatants, including on unborn generations, is contrary to the wisdom and the ideals of the Law of Moses. For example, if Israel’s army besieged a city, they could cut down non-fruit bearing trees to build siege works, but they were forbidden to cut down fruit trees. (Deuteronomy 20:19-20).
However, even more important than “merely” reducing the destructive effects from weapons, is the need to replace the destructive force of weapons with the constructive force of non-destructive “glue”—both sticks and carrots.
Wielding figurative “sticks” and “carrots” is far preferable to wielding literal bayonets, bullets and bombs.
Among nations, “sticks” include imposing economic sanctions on nations and individuals who have made “bad choices”. Such nations and individuals must also be ostracized—such as by boycotting Olympics held in their country or by refusing to let them travel to other countries for business, pleasure or education.
Among nations, “carrots” include giving them foreign aid, encouraging business investment, sharing cultural events such as the Olympics, and building relationships through international travel and exchange students.
I admire the Amish and others who believe that they should literally turn their other cheek in the face of violence, abuse and theft against people who they care about, including themselves.
However, I believe that most Wise-People-of-Goodwill should use their wisdom to discern the best times and ways—the best combinations of “sticks”, “carrots” and force—to prevent violence, abuse and theft against people who they care about (including themselves, their communities of wisdom, their families, their businesses, their nations, and their civilizations).
Because I believe that the hardness of people’s hearts sometimes forces us to permit things we’d prefer didn’t happen—such as when Moses permitted men to divorce their wives without cause. (Matthew 19:7-12).
Similarly, I believe that the hardness of people’s hearts sometimes forces us to wield force wisely to defend against the Spirit of Violence and the Spirit of Cruelty at the same time that we are embracing the Spirit of Peace and the Spirit of Compassion.
As the Apostle Paul commanded, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21).
Do not be overcome by the Spirit of Violence, but overcome the Spirit of Violence with the Spirit of Peace.
Do not be overcome by the Spirit of Cruelty, but overcome the Spirit of Cruelty with the Spirit of Compassion.
Most of the coffee cups in our home curve outward near the rim, making it easy for sloshing coffee to spill over the side.
But a few of our cups are a bit larger and their rims curve slightly inward, making it much harder for sloshing coffee to spill over the side.
In civilizations, we need to shape our laws and customs in wise ways that end violence, curtail the use of force, and embrace the Spirits of Peace and Compassion.
By the term “Communities of Wisdom”, I am referring to institutions such as faith communities, educational institutions, and the press.
For additional thoughts related to being Peacemakers, please read my blogs “Chess Lessons: Playing for a Draw”, “Game Lessons: Sustainable Risk”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Multiple Choice Exams & No-Win-Scenarios”, “Deceptive-Drawings-Designed-To-Deceive-And-Divide”, “We Need Inspiring Visions of a Bright Future. Why?”, “Nationalism Is Patriotism Gone Astray”, and “Establishing Peace Without Limit”.