Fighting Fire With Fire

 

“You have to fight fire with fire!”

 

That’s funny, I thought you fought fire with water….

 

In fact, I think that the whole point is to try to douse flames to prevent them from spreading[1].

The only role of fire in fighting fire that I am aware of is to use fire to eliminate brush and combustible materials before the fire gets there.  The idea is to remove those things that feed more flames so that the fire simply dies out for lack of fuel.

But somehow we have invited into our lexicon this unchallenged notion that you can fight fire …with even more fire.

The purpose here is not to analyze the science of fire.  It’s to fight the unexamined notion that you can fight fire with more fire… or that you can fight violence with even more violence…

Or that you can fight hate with hate…

 

Perhaps it’s our natural human reflexive tendency to respond in kind.  “You have heard it said ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’…”

But if we don’t challenge the conventional wisdom that the way to eliminate hatred or violence is to attack it with more hatred and violence, we are doomed to simply perpetuate the very things we ostensibly try to eliminate.

I think they call this the ‘cycle of violence’

So how do you stop a cycle of violence?

Well, I think the first step is to stop fueling it with more violence and hatred.

I really don’t think you can fight fire with fire.

To finish the old Testament reference above, Jesus continues:  ‘but I tell you, to love your enemies and pray for those who hate you.’

 

I think you truly try to douse the flames of hatred…with love.

 

At this point you should fight the temptation to dismiss this statement as some sanguine gloss of an idealistic band-aid for a serious malady.

Responding in love to hate is not easily done.  And it’s dangerous work.  In fact, the author of this approach was brutally tortured and nailed to a cross to suffer an agonizing death.

Many people after him who have responded in love to hate have also suffered grievous harm, threats and most surprisingly – criticism for not responding to hate with hate.

Admittedly, one can see the appealing logic of this type of criticism.  The argument is typically voiced this way:  ‘In this world, if you want to see change, you have to fight for it.  By forgiving the perpetrator, you are implicitly condoning the act, and other aggressors might be emboldened to act if they don’t see the harmful consequences of their actions.’

But when the Kingdom of God breaks through with a stunning word of forgiveness by a victim that has suffered harm at the hands of a perpetrator – an act that can only be conceived of as an act of God’s love paid forward – do we realize what a potent enemy of hate love is.  When we hear of such an unexpected act, it usually stops us in our tracks and we pay attention.

To be clear, this is not to say that we should not fight injustice, racism and hatred.  We do need to fight determinedly against injustice, racism and hatred … just not with fire.

We fight it heroically with love –

It douses the flames and breaks the cycle… and it gives us breathing space to live in right relationship with each other.  Just as God intended.

 

 

 

 

[1] Humorous point: While it is true that one might use a ‘firehose’ to fight a fire, it’s actually water – not fire – that comes from a firehose.

 

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Published in: on July 9, 2016 at 9:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Making Distinctions

It’s an unusual visual: Peter is relating a story to ‘apostles and believers’ defending his condemnable act of having eaten with the unclean Gentiles.

Peter describes a large ‘sheet’ lowered from heaven by its four corners; there are ‘beasts of prey’, reptiles, birds and all manner of animals on it. Then he hears God say “Get up Peter; kill and eat”. (I’m sure this is a favorite morning devotion scripture for hunters and fishermen). Surprisingly, Peter objects to God and says ‘by no means will I eat them – they are unclean. To which God replies “What God has made clean, you must not call profane!”

At that very moment, three men from Caesarea came to Peter at the urging of the Holy Spirit – along with this interesting admonition from the Holy Spirit: “Do not make a distinction between them and us”.

I don’t doubt that Biblical scholars have explained the use of the two pronouns and deciphered the confusing reference as to who was ‘them’ and who was ‘us’, but I submit to you that it doesn’t matter. Look at what God through the Holy Spirit has done. This is an enormously radical pronouncement that burst wide open the doors of the ‘church’:

God doesn’t want us to make distinctions.

Really?

We in the American church have seemed to have honed an exceptional skill at making distinctions among the Children of God. And we tag ‘them‘ with additional assumptions and preconceived notions for good measure.

‘They’ are identified by their race or ethnicity. ‘They’ vote Democrat (or Republican) – pick your choice. They are ‘pro-life’ (or not). ‘They’ are confused by their gender (or are bigots). ‘They’ are for gun control (or not). ‘They’ are too old (or young) to understand the world as it really is. I could, of course, keep going, but you get the point.

And as if to rebuke God – like Peter initially did – we spend too much time trying to point out how ‘they’ are unclean, and how we are not to be associated with ‘them’, and how we should be wary of ‘them’ who try to undermine the teachings of the church.

Such things as eating with ‘Gentiles’…

I think we in the Christian church would agree that God loves God’s creation – and each one of us who are carries the creative spark of God’s love within us. More importantly, God doesn’t just love each of us, God loves all of us.

So why is it that we continue to make distinctions among ourselves? And why is it again that God calls us to not make distinctions?

Because God loves all of us. Without distinction or discrimination. Look it up. [Acts 11: 1-19]. It’s the creative spark that burst the Church wide open for everyone!

Do your part to propel the Church forward: Go have lunch this week with a Gentile.

Can’t find a ‘Gentile’? that’s ok, any one of ‘them‘ will do…

Published in: on April 22, 2016 at 3:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Noisy Gongs and Clanging Cymbals

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians: 1-3

This is a fundamentally potent, powerful message that has the unfortunate destiny of being relegated only to special occasions – like a wedding dress carefully protected and kept clean so as to not be soiled by its actual use.

Paul could not have imagined the discordant symphony of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals that characterize the ‘Church’ today.  In fact, to those outside of the Church, it appears to be nothing more than a melee of competing gongs and cymbals with some extra drums and a few trumpeters trying to be heard above the din.

What is the message of the Christian Church?

It harkens back to my days as a primary school student during one of my favorite classes – music class.  The erstwhile teacher would hand out musical ‘instruments’ that seemingly never graduated from grade school to ‘real’ music:  wooden sticks – some of which were ribbed-, sand blocks, sometimes finger cymbals and – on a special occasion, the triangle.  I never got the triangle, would on some happy occasions get the sand blocks, but typically I wound up with the sticks.

Of course, long before the teacher made any attempt at instructing us how to use the instruments, we took off – summoning our innate knowledge of how to make sounds – to make the greatest racket of noise that is otherwise unknown outside of school.  Customarily, despite warnings from the teacher, someone would begin hitting their sticks together.  Not to be outdone, someone else would prove that they could be louder with their instrument.  And so to make sure they were not left out of the fun, the sand blocks and cymbals would be used – and sometimes misused – to assert their right to be heard.

And the most long-suffering servant in the school, our teacher, would patiently attempt to instruct us on how to use our instruments.

And sometimes it worked.  But usually not too long.

I don’t doubt that God fully understands how the music teacher feels.

What is the message of Christianity today?

I think it is found in the rich, clear tone, too often trampled by the cacophony of competing messages, condemnations and judgments that the church is unfortunately known for…

The message is Love.

God loves us.  We love God.  We love each other.

It’s a simple but profound arrangement that – if we practice it – can create the most heavenly music here on Earth.

P

Published in: on February 18, 2010 at 4:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Greetings to my friends in Corinth

Dear Friends,

I do not pretend to be my forbear – the Apostle Paul – and cannot speak for him in today’s world.  However, Paul’s writings continue to inspire me to address weaknesses and vulnerabilities that clearly continue to hinder the Christian church from becoming the vessel of God’s Kingdom here on Earth.

The prophetic word is sometimes sharp and critical, sometimes understanding, but always – as is the fundamental essence of these writings – always about Love.  Love in the way that God commands us to Love.

If you miss this point, you miss the Whole Point.

Welcome! and Join me on a journey of discovery as if this were a pilgrimage to the church at Corinth to help them become a true vessel of God’s Kingdom here on Earth!

P

Published in: on February 14, 2010 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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