By Laurie Mellinger, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation and Christian Theology
Dean of Academic Programs
St. Francis of Assisi is credited with a prayer that begins, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.... O Divine Master, grant that I might seek not so much to ... be understood as to understand..."
In a recent local newspaper column, a rabbi invited members of the Muslim community to meet together with those of other faiths, with the goal of seeking to "find enough that is similar to build a foundation for mutual understanding in that which we hold in common." He asked some questions-—"What would you like me to know about you? Tell me what causes you pain. What brings fear into your life? What kind of world do you want your children to grow up in?" In light of this well-known prayer, I applaud his efforts to understand others, and to sow love, hope, and light into a difficult and dark world.
I hereby call the Christian community to do the same: to try to understand, to allow the Lord to make us instruments of peace.
But peace is not an easy thing. True peace, deep shalom, healing and wholeness and salam-—requires hard work. And that work does not begin with them, whoever they are. It begins within me, and it begins within you.
As I walk in the places where I live, work, and worship, I hear many people criticizing the physical violence of extremists-—whether extremists of another faith, or another ethnic group, another political persuasion, or even those they perceive to be extremists in their own faith or ethnic group or political persuasion. I keep hearing something like, "What's the matter with them? We would never behave like that."
But we do.
In the passage known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said several times, "You have heard that it was said... but I say to you." He took teachings that his hearers had believed they were obeying and demanded an even deeper obedience.
Indeed, Jesus calls us to a deeper, higher standard: to love everyone.
Everyone. Even them.
Read the gospel stories again. How did Jesus deal with others who disagreed with Him?
He rarely made speeches; instead, he told stories and parables. He asked questions, and he listened to the answers. He looked at people, and he loved them.
I want to do the same. Will you join me?
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Or, as an old song says, "Let there be peace on earth-—and let it begin with me."
May it be so.