I’ve been thinking about violence. With another school massacre, churches developing safety plans, the #metoo movement, and escalating tensions with Russia and North Korea, violence is becoming ever more present in our day-to-day lives. Whether it is gun violence or sexual violence or violence prevention or international violence, it seems that our supposedly-enlightened world is regressing into a place of increasingly primal violence.
If you’ve ever read popular dystopian literature (like The Hunger Games or the Divergent series) or watched futuristic movies set in a post-Armageddon world (like Mad Max or The Hunger Games or The Book of Eli), then you know that many people envision our world’s future as one full of ugliness, oppression, and unmitigated violence. It’s a long way from the idealistic future portrayed in Star Trek or The Jetson’s or Epcot’s Future World. (I, for one, prefer The Jetson’s.) Yet with the direction our society appears to be taking, the dystopian reality seems to be progressively more possible. It’s a vision of the future that can and does engender fear and anxiety—two emotions that are extremely prevalent in our world today.
I learned a long time ago that I cannot control other people—as much as I sometimes wish I could. I can attempt to influence the behavior of others, but ultimately, I only have authority over my own actions. I choose how and who I wish to be in the world. And in these days, I choose to be unafraid.
I choose peace over violence.
I choose mercy over revenge.
I choose mutual respect over condemnation.
I choose inclusivity over exclusivity.
I choose generosity over selfishness.
I choose love over hate.
I choose Christ over anti-Christ.
That’s right. For me, “anti-Christ” is not a person or the devil or Nicolas Carpathia (or the pope, as Martin Luther once said). The “anti-Christ” is anything that is not Christ-like. Anti-Christ is us when we choose violence and revenge and condemnation and exclusivity and selfishness and hatred over what Jesus taught and modeled: peace, mercy, respect, inclusivity, generosity and love. And I do not want to be anti-Christ.
This is not naïve, pie-in-the-sky pastor talk. I am not naïve. I have seen ugliness in the world. I have experienced ugliness. Regardless, I choose to be one who strives—and often fails—to follow Christ.
So I am going to try to stop thinking about violence. Instead, I am going to think about peace and love and mercy and I am going to endeavor to be a person of peace and love and mercy. And maybe, just maybe, someone else might see and decide to also become a person of peace and love and mercy and maybe someone will see them and decide to become a person of peace and love and mercy and someone else will see them and decide…
One action, one person, one life at a time, and we can turn it all around. In fact, it is the only way that we can.