If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Matthew 10:13-14
“As a ‘man of the cloth’ you shouldn’t support these protests.”
“…but can you vote Democrat and still call yourself a Christian?”
“You are divisive and saying my family should feel guilty about racism. Saying “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t sound like a Christian to me.”
These are some of the messages that I’ve heard from family and friends over the past couple of years. And up until two weeks ago, I was giving my peace away to them through my prayers, responses, and engagement with them and others regarding faith and social action. When I first started responding, it was just as an exchange of ideas. But, as Covid-19 came on the scene and after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, it went from an exchange to something much more heart wrenching.
Still, as a follower of Christ and a person striving to live the two great commandments, I felt that I could not abandon the people who were reaching out. I thought that, even though I experienced them as being critical, perhaps it was a good thing that they felt secure enough in our relationships to have a different point of view and still reach out to me. And there’s also the chance that I overestimated my ability to make, what I might consider a logical point, and thought that if I just explained myself in a way that they understood, citing Bible verses and civil rights leaders, then perhaps something would click for them and they would see that my Christianity was precisely why I am involved in many of these things.
But the primary reason that I stayed engaged was because, whenever I allowed my feelings to be hurt by some of these exchanges, I saw it as not maintaining my peace. And as I experience the scripture above, if I am to walk away, I should do so with the peace that I entered into the space with. “Let your peace return to you,” it says.
Two weeks ago, I decided to let my peace return when it became clear that it was the most loving thing I could do for my neighbors and myself. There is a difference between saying nothing to maintain an illusion of peace through avoidance and speaking your piece so that regardless of the outcome you have inner peace. I choose the latter.
When my one my closest friends asked me about whether I could vote the opposite of him and still consider myself a Christian, it was from the peace given me by Christ that surpasses all understanding that I replied to them, “I have stopped answering comments like this or going back and forth with people who know me and still ask those questions. Just praying and loving neighbors and enemies as myself.”
Creator, you have asked us to love you, ourselves, and others as one. And yet, we acknowledge that without your peace, this is next to impossible. Grant us your peace, so that we can be at peace in what we do and don’t say in our efforts to love as you love. Amen.