The Wisdom of Samwise Gamgee and Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This has been a year that will go into the pensive, without question.  So many terrible events.  Today’s terrorist attack in Nice, France has left me especially sad.  Though, after reading about what happened, I remembered a scene from Lord of the Rings that gave me hope.  It’s when Frodo and Sam are in Mordor, and all seems hopeless…..

Frodo : I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam : I know.
It’s all wrong.
By rights we shouldn’t even be here.
But we are.
It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo.
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were,
and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy.
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Those were the stories that stayed with you.
That meant something.
Even if you were too small to understand why.
But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.
I know now.
Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.
Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo : What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

 

Everything that has been going on in the world lately – acts of terrorism, police brutality, violent protests, war, etc – I find it difficult to take in and process.  It’s true that the world is full of hatred, and I find myself so easily depressed by it all.

I’m not going to pretend to have all of the answers to world peace, but I can tell you that there is hope to be found.  And not a faint flicker of hope, but a giant shining beacon that blots out the stars!  I believe that our only true source of hope lies in God and the gospel message, which I’ve laid out at the bottom of this blog, should you choose to read it.

 We are ALL one race.  

As divided as we may be culturally and ethnically, we are all united by our inescapable common bond – that we are all members of the human race.  The term racism shouldn’t exist.  We are all one race, despite what cancerous thinking may have crept into our minds by way of Darwinism or some other misguided belief.  I believe that as my fellow man or woman, you are my brother/sister on a very real level.  God created you in His own image, and I therefore should treat you with love and dignity as a person created by God.  I may not like someone, but I have a responsibility as a person, and especially as a Christian, to love them.  And if you don’t believe in God, you can know that scientists have concluded that all humans are of one race (something that many scientists do admit flies in the face of logic according to Darwinian theory) as opposed to multiple races of humans.  So hey, yeah that is important to know.  We are all one race, so we all have a common bond.

Reconciliation is the answer, not more hatred.

History makes it pretty clear that when hate is met with more hate, it’s a downward spiral. The only way reconciliation can happen is when one party has a shift of perspective and takes action accordingly.  You’ve got to realize that your fellow man is not your enemy, no matter their race, religion, or gender.

The famous theologian and pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this in “Life Together” as he was being persecuted by the Nazis in WWII:

“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.  His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner…There is no dislike, no personal tension, no estrangement that cannot be overcome by intercession as far as our side of it is concerned.”

This quote, in context, speaks to a Christian praying for others, but I believe that this lesson can be applied to all of us, Christian or not.

What is the path towards peace?

Do you want to help end the cycles of hatred that we see in the world today?  Wouldn’t you rather see times of peace than times of war and killing?  Well, you CAN do something substantial.  The only way forward begins with you and with me.  You have to DECIDE that your real enemy is not the radical Islamists, or another ethnic group, or abusive police officers….but that your greatest enemy comes from within yourself.  It’s the voice that calls you to take revenge on your fellow man when he wrongs you and yours.  It’s that feeling that justice for you matters more than justice for somebody else, that your rights are more important than somebody else’s rights.  You have to fight against that voice, and listen to the voice of love instead.  You have to decide to forgive that person or group of people if you want to break the cycle.  It starts with you.

Next, you’ve got to EXTEND the proverbial olive branch.  Just because they see you as an enemy, doesn’t mean you have to return the favor.  Offer peace.  This is done by treating them with love, and seeking their good, rather than their downfall.  This will confound your so-called “enemies”, and best-case scenario?  It just might cause them enough shame that they will take that olive branch and seek out reconciliation with you.

Most importantly, you’ve got to UNDERSTAND who your real enemy actually is.  Peace between men is only possible when they realize that they aren’t each others’ enemy.  There is a very real war being waged, and you need to pick a side.  It’s either your own side, or God’s side.  God is our only hope to break these cycles of hatred once and for all.  The ability to truly love and forgive someone has to be rooted in God, because God is love.  So if you’re going to love your enemy, you’ve got to be connected to love’s source.  It’s true that, even without God, we can experience love in many different forms.  It’s part of our human nature to love, because we are made in God’s image, and it is in God’s nature to love.  So yes, we can choose to love each other, even if we don’t choose to follow God.  But eventually, we will break that pattern and fall back into cycles of hatred and revenge.  It’s in our nature to do so.  The only permanent solution is to choose to connect to the only source of true love that lasts forever, God Himself.  So who is your real enemy?  It’s yourself.  That voice I mentioned earlier?  That is the voice of a nature within you that is rebelling against God.

What will you choose to do?

You can believe in God or no, obviously that’s up to you.  But whatever you choose to believe, I hope that you realize that the ONLY solution is for you and I to stand up and to say, “No, I will not choose to hate my brother or sister.  I will not take vengeance.  I will instead break this never ending cycle by choosing to respond with love.”  And that’s all you can do, it’s up to them to respond.  If they keep sewing hatred and violence, they will only bring violence upon themselves as well.  Our states have a responsibility to protect us after all.  Please don’t confuse this post to be one of a pacifist – because I am not a pacifist.  I hate war and violence, yes, but I recognize that sometimes they are a duty to protect our fellow man, yes even for Christians.  It is a duty of love for our neighbor rather than of hatred for anyone else, or of some inflated sense of self-importance.  Feel free to disagree with me.  I might be wrong, I might not be.  I’m open to discussion, but I won’t get any further into that tangent on this post however, as it isn’t precisely the point of it.

True hope can only be found in Jesus Christ.

We have one incredible hope that we can cling to, and be absolutely certain of.  That is that while we were still enemies of God because of our rebellion against Him, God Himself became one of us, as Jesus Christ, and paid the penalty that we owed to God for our sin. Three days later, because death had no claim on Him (because He had no sin), Jesus rose from the dead to intercede for us to God, and to give us a promise that He will raise us as well into new life.  This is the plan that God has predestined.  It is a plan not that centers on smiting his enemies (though he did conquer over them), but on the pouring out of love, grace, and mercy on those who had betrayed Him.  He does not want anyone to perish, but He is infinitely holy (above all else) and infinitely just.  Sin, therefore, demands an infinitely huge and terrible sentence.  This is why the ransom (Jesus) had to be God Himself, because only God is big enough to endure His own wrath against sin.

While this is incredible news, it does require something of us.  God will not admit rebels into His Kingdom.  We must believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and turn away from our pursuit of sin, and pursue a life of trusting obedience to God instead.  Jesus said that He came to give us abundant life, and that’s exactly what the whole gospel message is.  A gift of life.  The offer of trading eternal death and punishment for eternal life and joy.  That new life begins the moment you put faith in Christ.  But a gift must be received before it belongs to you.