War has been in the news and on our minds. War is almost universally accepted when you have an enemy, when you are threatened. Waging war to defend ourselves is, for both individuals and for nations, the appropriate response. What else can we do--die?
War is also about power and wealth. War litters the landscape of history and has many expert teachers. We have Sun Tzu's art of war from China; Musashi's book of five Rings from Japan; the Mongol's Genghis Khan; Greece's Alexander the Great; France's Napolean; Russia's Stalin, …at such great cost in lives.
…and from China, Mao Tse Tung; and Germany, Hitler. From Africa, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabi, Al Bashir, Al Gadaffi, and Botha. Closer to home we have our own George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Generals Patton & Powell, The Navy Seal teams--all of these are or were warrior-statesman-leadership heroes in their cultures.
Religions, too, can teach us about war: from Jihad and Sharia, to Inquisitions and Crusades, from the old testament conquest of Canaan to the 67 war, from the Hindu and Buddhist caste systems to the “ethnic” cleansings of our own era. To be fair, some religious leaders teach us alternatives. Tibetan Buddhism provides the Dalai Lama, exiled now in India. There is a cost to obstruct the normal use of war.
India gave us Gandhi, a Hindu, who followed the Sermon on the Mount, India was also home to Mother Teresa, a Catholic, who served the poor in Calcutta. South Africa birthed Nelson Mandela. America,our Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. But one voice uniquely proposed, "love your enemies.“ Loving our enemies is a revolutionary idea.
Climbing the ladder—a way of living played out in every culture. But this one turned our selfishness and self-centeredness upside down. He honored the poor, not the wealthy; the weak, not the strong; the meek, not the belligerent. He taught, “He that will be the greatest among you, let him be your servant. Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; The last will be first and the first, last.”
The trouble is that we want to be the center of attention, the bride, and not the bridesmaid. In developing this generous love of enemies, we startfirst with loving our friends and neighbors, until it is becoming a new way of life. It is a way that does not compete to be the bride, and is glad to be the bridesmaid. With each step, we learn to love even our enemies.
We also must confront our desire for the comfort and safety of wealth, the prestige of nicer cars, better jobs, bigger homes, more money, power. We work and plan and sacrifice to enrich ourselves. But it is never enough. We work longer hours, with less time love with our partner, and less time to love our children.
Here, we are the center of our private universe. We seek to preserve our life and enrich ourselves. Turning the ladder climbing chart upside down, it is now in the lower, right quadrant.His followers developed “one another” codes thatremind us to submit to one another; to esteem others better than ourselves, and to honor one another. Quite un-American values.
For many, this person represents the success goal: power and position and wealth are his. But is he successful? Or is this person is a slave to his need for power, honor, wealth, and gratification. He is not only at war with others, but also with himself. He cannot rest, but is always in competition for more, bigger, better, newer. He knows more about anger, frustration, and jealousy, than he does about joy, hope, and peace.
Moving to the next quardant, we have the person who loves wealth and reputation, but they have an interest in other people. They will build relationships and give of their time. But they use people to make themselves look good and are always lookingfor the photo-op…
And we sense the hollowness in their attention. Carol King described these people well when she sang, “You’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you!” We like their attentions, but we don’t trust these people.
The person in the lower right quadrant safeguards his time and chooses his associations carefully, but he is generous with possessions. But he doesn’t want to be personally involved. His distance and his sense of superiority comes across paternalistic, and breeds resentment. He does not know the intimacy of carrying another’s burdens and accepting others into his life.
This man likely attends the biggest and best church in town, and donates money freely; but not, time. Like waging war, waging Love also exacts a great cost, involves great sacrifice, and requires every bit as great a courage. Few are willing to follow this less travelled path, preferring a safe distance from the rabble.
The person in the upper right quadrant has moved forward in becoming selfless with her time and with her money. She knows and is known by the store clerks, the neighbors, and the corner beggar. Her kindnesses enrich many. She is busy, but always interruptible. She has little, but only the poor have enough to give.
Do you see friends and acquaintenances somewhere on this grid? Do you see yourself? Do you weigh everything with how it will make you look, how it will satisfy your desires, how safe you will be? Do you imagine slights, and worry over the opinions others have of you? Or, are you free?
Everyone here gets a checkup every day. We’ve all been here. And, while our justifiable hostility towards stupid drivers (ahem, hardly an enemy) is “normal” and their fault, our anger may cause an accident. We could kill ourselves; we might kill that driver. Or a child. A teenager. A mom, a dad. Innocent passengers or bystanders.
In all forms of war, besides the damage to the combatants, there are collateral damages to the innocent. War does not bring peace, does not heal differences, does not make a better world. And don’t think that you are safe and kind simply because you don’t go around as a “hater.” There are worse things than haters.
Looking the other way is safe; it is also cowardly and destructive. It not only withholds the good that we could do, it also dehumanizes the person we refuse to see. It was people just like you and me that herded men, women and children to their deaths in Auschwitz and Dachau, in Serbia and Somalia, and among aboriginal peoples all over the world.
The Air Force’s Strategic Air Command—with their nuclear armed, long range bombers—has as their slogan, Peace is our profession,” and they are correct. Peace requires the preparation and will to go to war. More than pursuing peace, more than withholding hate, I am inviting you to take the dangerous but promising path of actively waging love, every day, with everyone.