I learned recently about CeaseFire, a faith-based intervention organization that’s mission is to stop gang violence specifically and racially-motivated strife generally. I learned they have what are referred to as “interrupters” who mediate potentially volatile circumstances
with the objective of peace and reconciliation. One interrupters name is Tim, a former gang member who found Jesus in a prison cell. Tim now stands for peace and he “punks” peace on the streets. I am inspired by his rough humility and transparency. He shared a story of a time when he himself had just successfully interrupted a confrontation between two gang members and on his way home from that meeting he was confronted by another gang member who purposefully cut him off in traffic. They ended up out of their cars and trash talking to each other. Tim said this, “I suddenly realized I was riding the same wave of pride that causes the violence I’m trying to interrupt!” He went on to say the toughest mediation is the mediation inside you. That’s what got me! I’ve never been in a gang, never faced significant injustice, heck, I’ve never even been in a fight that came to blows with my fists.
To mitigate peace, You said, “don’t fight back.” Well, actually you said more than that:
“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire….“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you…”
Matthew 5: 21-22; 38-42
It is highly unlikely that I will find myself myself on the streets of an inner city known for racial strife. I doubt I’ll ever be stuck in a war-torn country. But, I am painfully certain that I ride the wave of pride that can inflict pain on another. Your Word in so many places reminds me that when pride or fear rules in my heart in any relationship, the potential for violence is there, though it is often disguised in words and attitudes and motivations.
That’s the rub about You, Jesus; you look right past my entire pretense, all my righteous appearance as if You didn’t care about that at all. Dog-gone-it, LORD, don’t you appreciate how much effort I put into my Self-righteousness? When I stand before you in the final judgment and for that matter, when I stand before you in every moment, you aren’t comparing me to a gang member, or a Stalin, or a Hussein, or even my grumpy neighbor, No, you compare me to you! Nuts! That’s a tall measure.
William Barclay says it is much easier to go about declaring that there should be no such thing as violence, than to live a life in which we personally never allow any such thing as bitterness to invade our relationships with those we live every day. That kind of violence is everywhere, no boundary lines exist on that one and that kind of gang territory can tear apart a relationship faster than any verbal fight.
Back to being an Interrupter. How can I interrupt the cycle of anger or pride or fear or resentment? Slowing down, wearing the shoes of the other, seeing with your eyes and not my own. That kind of action is easier to do when the other is not so important to me. Much, much harder to do with the ones who are closest or when it’s something I’m passionate about.
Some of the most painful, cutting, violent words are words between husbands and wives, siblings, and family members. Occasionally I’m the one who must an interrupter in someone’s relational conflict. To bring peace with a word seems impossible; to mediate resentment that has built over years require much more than a few words. The word can only come from your Spirit’s gift to me–wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude and knowledge, piety and reverence. That manner of interruption accomplishes the impossible.
And then there’s times when I feel what Tim said, “the toughest mediation is the mediation inside you.” I ask your holy Spirit when I get caught up in my own resentments and the temptations to retaliate or to even the playing field, “What needs to be examined in my spirit; Why am I stuck in these emotions?” Eventually, your Spirit faithfully brings me back to this thought: “In the grand scheme of things is what I consider my territory, my rights, and my way important enough to forfeit your forgiveness?” That stops me in my tracks, sometimes it takes me awhile to come to a full stop, but I eventually give over.
God of Peace, lead me with your staff away from the temptation of comeuppance toward the people around me.
God of Peace, release me from the briar of collected grievances that twist through my thoughts and choke out patience and gentleness.
God of Peace, anoint the wounds I allow to fester with your healing oil.
God of Peace, lead me to the still waters and cleanse me of the violence my spirit wields in my thoughts and words.