The great Catholic mystic Thomas Merton once said, “A Christian is committed to the belief that love and mercy are the most powerful forces on earth“. A friend of mine, whom I look up to a great deal, recently asked me what I would propose to do to protect our nation (America), if we were to dissolve our military and destroy all our weapons. It is an extremely valid question. One I do not claim to have an answer to. I would make a lousy general. A reaction I often get from people when I talk about peace and nonviolence is that this is a nice ideal but it simply is not realistic. I understand my atheist friends making that assertion. But as Christians, do we not believe in and hope for many things, which, on the surface do not appear “realistic”?
Part of the problem, I believe, is a misplaced eschatology which has come mostly from poor translation of scripture. Eschatology has become all about something that happens after this world has passed away. So we take the powerful prophecies in scripture about peace and we make them not possible for now. However, Jesus prayed “Let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” So that’s what I fight for. That’s what I press toward.
In Matthew 10:7 Jesus tells His disciples as He sends them out, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” He did not tell them to say, “The kingdom of heaven will come near in roughly 2,000 years.” It has come near now. The prophecies are for today!
All this being said, God has given me a vision for our nation. You may hear it and think it is idealistic. You may read it and think I am foolish. However, the same was said of Jesus when he suggested his followers love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them. I’m sure the same was said of Jesus when he encouraged his followers to carry the gear of the occupying Roman soldiers further than Jewish people would be required to. I am sure the same was said of Martin Luther King Jr. as he shared his not yet realized dream that his children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. He was surely considered a fool for demanding African-Americans have equal rights as white Americans.
Dreamers, prophets, artists, poets and pastors all share a common mission. We are all called to pique the imagination of our audience. We are all called to show people that another world is possible. A better world is possible. Right here. Right now. And the Spirit and the bride say “Come!” Here is the vision God gave me. Scripture references will be in parentheses.
I looked from sea to shining sea over the land of the free and the home of the brave. On this day we were truly free. On this day we were truly brave. Guns had been beaten to plowshares (Isaiah 2:4) and the donkey laid down with the elephant while little children became our examples (Isaiah 11:6). We met terrorists with acts of overwhelming love and forgiveness. We did not love our lives so much as to shrink from death (Revelation 12:11).
The long dark night of violent resistance and oppression had ended. The alien was welcome amongst us as one of our own. We loved them as we loved each other because we were once aliens in this land (Leviticus 19:34). We all, from Florida to California, from Washington to Maine, shared everything we had with one another (Acts 4:32). Our fear of having enough was replaced with a confidence in our community. We knew there would be more than enough for all of us so we stopped hoarding goods.
There was no need for currency because we gave freely, we gave humbly, and we gave sacrificially. Evil was met with love and forgiveness. Justice was restorative, not punitive. When someone wronged someone our battle cry became, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). We sought the healing of the evildoer, no longer did we seek their destruction.
We became a beacon of light to the world as we began to use the over six hundred billion dollars we annually spent on military to give food, water and education to those who could not afford it for themselves. The world’s greatest military power became the greatest beacon for change and growth in the world. We locked arms with the global community as we realized that our capacity to love must override our capacity to kill if we are to survive.
We took seriously the words of Jesus. We cared for the sick, fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty and obliterated the word poor from our vocabulary. We became the richest country in the world, because we had each other. We recognized our interdependence and ceased running from it. We decided to stop pointing fingers and instead we welcomed one another in warm embraces. Anger and hatred was melted by our intense love. God’s kingdom came in America as it is in heaven.
This is the vision God has given me for my country. I believe it is the dream in God’s heart for this world. Let us press on until this becomes reality. Today, I must ask myself what I can do to see the kingdom of heaven come on earth around me. Today, you must ask yourself the same. It may be a long journey, I may never see this promised land, but we press towards it nonetheless. And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes, take the free gift of the water of life (Revelation 22:17). Abba, let your redeeming love flow down over our blood saturated land. Heal our fractured nation. Show us how to be your hands and feet. Let us see with your eyes and love with your heart. You are the savior of the world. Let it be Lord.