(One of the greatest blessings of raising a large family is having the chance to hear (and hopefully appreciate!) a variety of perspectives. Our son, Kyril, is off to graduate school at the end of this week. This column was written by him. -- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe)
It isn't easy to sit still. It's harder still to walk calmly when we are surrounded by violence, controversy, and hatred in their many forms. It isn't easy to have dealings with people whose opinions make you afraid or untrusting.
It's much easier to get up and go. It's easy to get caught up in the action, to fight everyone and everything that we think could ever threaten us. It's easy to put up walls between ourselves and other people, and to make a world for ourselves full of only "good" things, because we got rid of the "bad." And the facts bear this out, don't they? Changes happen because of action. Action must be strong and powerful if it is to succeed. Peace means having no neutral parties, no inconstant allies, and especially no enemies when we are finished. Inaction changes nothing.
We hear these facts every day, and from the usual sources: television, newspapers, activists, bloggers, and politicians. These sources always provide us all the information we could want and more, regardless of relevance. They back up their facts with the analysis of experts in every field, whose opinions always seem to disagree with their colleagues. They show us what "matters," who our "enemies" are, and what's "the right thing to do."
But the truth is something different from facts. Information confuses as much as it reveals, especially with how much we have access to today. Facts are not stubborn, but easily manipulated for whatever conclusions we want to draw. We rely on the "experts" not to make things clear, but to think for us. Some of what we see and hear from these sources isn't even real, and none of it is as it really is.
The truth is that fighting too much and too often makes us both vicious and inconsiderate of our actions. The truth is that our idea of a "better world" is usually a fantasy we build to escape a reality that displeases us. The truth is that some of the "causes" we fight for aren't worthy. And the truth is that some of the enemies we tear down were more honorable and virtuous in their sinning than we are in our opposition to them.
Christ was not the Messiah that many Jews of his time wanted. They hoped for someone who would take up a sword, go after the Roman bad guys, and be a man of action. How scandalous was it when the most action they got was Jesus kicking out moneychangers, ministering to Gentiles and Jews alike, and changing almost nothing about society himself? How difficult is it to want Christ to be a revolutionary, and end up with someone who cites the same old Scripture?
The man of action that was Jesus Christ cured the sick, drove out demons, fed the crowds, and raised the dead. His defining action was not fighting, but surrendering, without resistance, to death on the cross. He came to redeem the world as it was, not reshape it wholesale into what he'd rather it be. As Christians, we are called to be like our Savior, and not always be people of modern-day "action."
I'm about to start graduate studies in theology, and I've often been asked why I chose that field, when it seems I could do other things. There are many reasons why, but the important one is this: that in theology, I am more still, silent, and grounded in reality than I am in any other discipline. I don't want to be carried away by a long chain of actions that I can't control. I long to be in true peace and to live deliberately for Christ.