Some of the deepest longing in you is the voice of your gift. … The only way to honour the unmerited presence of the gift in your life is to attend to the gift; this is also a most difficult path to walk. … The gift alone knows where its path leads. It calls you to courage and humility. If you hear its voice in your heart, you simply have to follow it. … People who truly follow their gift find that it can often strip their lives and yet invest them with a sense of enrichment and fulfilment that nothing else could bring.John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes
This whole passage is stimulating and deeply insightful, but I was most struck by the concept of the gift stripping our lives if we follow it. Following one’s gift might involve being an uncompromising, prophetic voice in an environment where such a voice is not welcome – which is probably true for most environments. Martin Luther King Jr comes to mind, whose gift stripped his life in that it led to fierce, violent, and in his case ultimately deadly opposition.
I suppose it can be a deep honour for one’s life to be stripped, an honour that those who respond to someone’s exercise of their gift in power-abusing, coercive, violent ways unwittingly and ironically award them.
To be a follower of Jesus … means … to see through every regime that promises peace through violence, peace through domination, peace through genocide, peace through exclusion and intimidation. Following Jesus … means forming communion that seeks peace through justice, generosity, and mutual concern, a willingness to suffer persecution but a refusal to inflict it on others.
Brian D. McLaren, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope
Peaceableness toward enemies is an idea that will, of course, continue to be denounced as impractical. It has been too little tried by individuals, much less by nations. It will not readily or easily serve those who are greedy for power. It cannot be effectively used for bad ends. It could not be used as the basis of an empire. It does not afford opportunities for profit. It involves danger to practitioners. It requires sacrifice. And yet it seems to me that it is practical, for it offers the only escape from the logic of retribution.
… The logic of retribution implies no end and no hope. If I kill my enemy, and his brother kills me, and my brother kills his brother, and so on and on, we may all have strong motives and even good reasons; the world may be better off without all of us. And yet this is a form of behavior that we have wisely outlawed. We have outlawed it, that is, in private life. In our national life, it remains the established and honored procedure.
… Peaceableness is not … passive. It is the ability to act to resolve conflict without violence. If it is not a practical and a practicable method, it is nothing. … In the face of conflict, the peaceable person may find several solutions, the violent person only one.
Wendell Berry, ‘Peaceableness toward Enemies’, in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community
Some quotes on love and forgiveness from Francis Spufford’s recent book Unapologetic:
If someone asks for your help, give them more than they’ve asked for. If someone hits out at you, let them. Don’t retaliate. Be the place the violence ends. Because you’ve got it wrong about virtue. It isn’t something built up from a thousand careful, carefully measured acts. It comes, when it comes, in a rush; it comes from behaving, so far as you can, like God himself, who makes and makes and loves and loves and is never the less for it. God doesn’t want your careful virtue, He wants your reckless generosity.
God … wants us to love wildly and without calculation. God wants us to love people we don’t even like; people we hate; people who hate us.
We’re supposed as Christians to go out and love recklessly, as God does. We’re supposed to try and imitate Jesus in this, and to be prepared to follow love wherever it goes, knowing that there are no guarantees it’ll be safe, or that the world will treat such vulnerability kindly. ‘Take up you cross and follow me,’ says Jesus … risk everything, even death. Take love’s consequences.
We’re supposed to see God’s willingness to mend, to forgive, to absorb and remove guilt, as oceanic; a sea of love without limit, beating ceaselessly on the shores of our tiny island of caution and justice, always inviting us to look beyond, to begin again, to dare a larger and wilder and freer life. But it is possible to shrink it instead into something like a Get Out of Jail Free card, to be played by God only very occasionally in a game otherwise dominated by the same old rewards and punishments, human justice writ large all over the cosmos.
As the oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized. … Once a situation of violence and oppression has been established, it engenders an entire way of life and behavior for those caught up in it – oppressor and oppressed alike. Both are submerged in the situation, and both bear the marks of oppression.
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed