I’ve been thinking about this affinity group, taking nonviolent direct action against injustice because we feel called to do this, and responding in faith to the message of Christianity, an invitation from God through Jesus to live lives of justice and peace. So, I was reflecting on the words ‘put down the sword’, and I find the image of holding a sword useful in my thoughts and reflections. I began thinking that to be able to put it down means it has had to be picked up at some point, because I don’t believe we’re born ‘holding swords’. Considering this led me to think about how I live, when I might need to ‘put down the sword’ and why I might have picked up a sword in the first place.
To me, the sword in this command represents acts of violence, injustice and oppression – an easier way I find to understand it is anything not done in love. I think that to act in love involves being present and consciously aware in each encounter with the earth, with other people, and with ourselves. I can see how it would be helpful to ask the question ‘what is the loving response?’ or ‘how can I act in love?’ in the situations and encounters I find myself in, however I hardly ever do this at the time…. Sometimes I think afterwards that it would have been a good idea to consider this, but generally I respond without thinking – which is sometimes good and sometimes not!
I think many people hold swords and some I find I can easily see – for example those who give the go ahead for drone attacks and bombings, those who buy and sell arms, those who hold a gun and shoot it at someone else, those who force people off their land for profit, those who keep people in slavery making clothes in appalling conditions…… And on a more personal level when someone says or does something that hurts me, it’s easy to see and feel pain from their words and actions. Up until now with this affinity group I’ve only been thinking about the very obvious acts of injustice and violence such as Trident and the Arms Fair etc, but having thought more about ‘putting down the sword’ I also thought about a couple of other bits from the Bible, Matthew 7: 4 when Jesus says “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” and also John 8:7 “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw the stone.” I’m not sure if I’ve taken them out of context, but in this question and invitation from Jesus I’m guided towards an awareness of my own actions before I pass judgement on the actions of others. I don’t take it to mean that I should never be active against injustices I see in the world which are not of my doing, not at all. I believe nonviolently challenging and constantly questioning practices, actions and lifestyles that I see as being oppressive and violent is vital, but that this response will be more truthful, loving and just when it is held within an honest sense of self-awareness.
I could probably tell lots of people about the sword they carry and when their actions are not loving, but I don’t think that’s right when I am most definitely picking up, holding and using my own sword. Some more questions I am finding it helpful to ask myself are ‘when, why and how do I prepare myself to say or do things that hurt others/the earth on a personal level and on a systematic global level?’ (picking up the sword), ‘when, why and how do I say or do things that hurt others/the earth?’ (using the sword), and finally as I mentioned earlier ‘in each situation how do I act/respond in love?’ (putting down the sword)
I can see this is going to have to be a very conscious and constant thought process/awareness which I hope will become easier as more of my being is given to loving, this is the aim anyway! If we want to meet each other (the other) without the barriers of fear, mistrust, and violence then we all need to put down our swords.
I want the words ‘put down the sword’ and being part of this affinity group, to be a constant reminder to me to act in love, and believe that is leading me towards nonviolent direct action against oppression, injustice and violence in the world, and hope that in turn, this will lead to my sword and others being put down. I’m glad to be challenged to live out my faith and to be exploring what this means with the affinity group!