Not Peace, but a Sword

Author: Nicole Speer

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. ~Matthew 10:34

Since taking office almost 5 months ago I have been battling a growing sense of despair. Getting a closer look at our community and its challenges has been… hard. Not because we are lacking the solutions to challenges such as the climate crisis, housing insecurity, economic inequality, racism, and other forms of oppression. But because I am recognizing we have a formidable foe when it comes to making progress on any of these challenges.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about evil as a force in the universe that actively opposes the force of love. In preaching about Matthew 10:34, he said “…there is a type of war that every Christian is involved in. It is a spiritual war. It is a war of ideas. Every true Christian is a fighting pacifist… Whenever [Jesus] come[s] a conflict is precipitated between the old and the new, between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.’”

I didn’t fully grasp this concept of my Christianity as a fight against the forces of evil until experiencing firsthand how hard the forces in our community work against love. For having the audacity to highlight some of the injustices in our systems, I am yelled at in my own driveway. I receive harassing text messages. I am asked publicly if my husband “lets me sleep with Black men.” The local paper prints veiled threats to my and my colleague’s lives. People go out of their way to email me to let me know they wish my family and I would die.

Yes. This has been my experience as a public figure in our community, working for justice and love. I am saddened. I am angered. And in my sadness and anger I am understanding what it means to be a fighting pacifist.

Dr. King talked about the three forces of evil in our society being militarism, racism, and materialism. These forces are hard at work in our own community, actively fighting against love, and it is important especially for those of us who identify as Christians to see the reality of the intolerance, hatred, and anger among us. Seeing these forces clearly is the only way we will be able to fight against them.

Dr. King saw that by shaping our social, political, and economic systems in ways that promoted love, we could save each other from our worst human tendencies, such as the income inequality that leaves its victims desperate and its beneficiaries susceptible to greed. Last week was the 54th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. This week we remember Jesus’s crucifixion over 2000 years ago. Two thousand years after Jesus was crucified for showing us the way to peace and love, our societal systems are still set up in a way that allows evil to fester and grow.

I have been wondering lately if we ought to take a page out of our conservative Christian siblings’ playbooks and recognize that we need to take not only our peace but our fight beyond the walls of our church and into our systems of power. If we are to create a future where love is triumphant, where our planet is cared for, where everyone has what they need to thrive, do we need to also push back against the systems that allow evil to persist and grow?

I do not have the answer, but I do know that more of us are needed in this fight. And I hope as we enter this next season for our church, we can consider the ways we as a community can rise up against the forces that keep us from becoming the Beloved Community. Our salvation depends on it.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid… You refuse to do it because you want to live longer… You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. ~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the year before his assassination


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