We are living in unpredictable times. Turn on the news, and you're bound to see yet another headline of yet another unbelievable act being perpetrated in an unexpected place. It's not that our world is somehow more evil today than it has ever been; it's just as evil, no more and no less, than it was six days in with just a serpent in a garden. It's just unpredictable, as there are so many crevices and crooks and crannies for this evil to hide and then burst out unexpected.
I had to write a prayer this week, just days after a man burst into a synagogue and took nearly a dozen lives, for no other reason than his own personal hatred of the persons he believed would be there. I say believed because often, a person who claims to hate an entire group of persons based on one characteristic has nothing more than a caricature of those persons in his or her head, not a real understanding.
Anyway, the prayer that I came up with took me to the garden. Not Eden, but Gethsemane. The night before Jesus was crucified.
Because the truth is that I think a lot of us are like Peter was that night - we want to be militant about it. We watch the news, read the headlines, and we want to grab our swords and go out swinging. In our passion, in our zeal for a better world, it seems only natural that we could make it so by force. By taking this world by storm and cutting out its broken places, chopping it up into blood and guts and vengeance or at least, vindication.
But Jesus wouldn't have it. In a moment in which the sides were warring, when the passion of His disciple took over in an act of violence, even vindictive violence against the passion of the violent, Jesus reached out and touched the man whose ear was bleeding. He reached right into the flow of blood and stopped it, with just a touch. With mercy, with compassion, with grace, with something bigger on his mind than the us vs. them that was taking shape among the olive trees, Jesus reached out and touched His enemy tenderly.
And told His disciple to put the sword away.
My prayer - the prayer that I wrote this week and the prayer that continues in my heart - is that we, as followers of Jesus, would do likewise.
Our world needs this kind of touch from us. It doesn't need more swords. It doesn't need more blood. It doesn't need more violence or vindication. What it needs is mercy. What it needs is grace. What it needs is healing. And we can't do that with a sword.
We can only do that with tenderness, with a touch. We can only do that by reaching out, even to those who seem to be in the "them." We can only do that when we listen to our Lord and put our swords away so that we can really and truly engage the human beings around us, on a most meaningful level.
May we become those who reach out, right into the flow of blood, and stop it. With just a touch.
With mercy, with compassion, with grace, with something bigger on our minds than the headlines could ever capture. With tenderness.