“True peace is not the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”– Martin Luther King, Jr. (cf. Jane Addams)
Writing about the time leading up to John Dear’s ordination as a Jesuit, Martin Sheen explained that the active proclamation of the nonviolent Jesus is “what his Jesuit superiors had come to expect from this fiercely independent, spiritually disarming young man.”
Yesterday–July 1, 2015–I moved into my new office to be the Associate Pastor at Trinity UMC in Mullica Hill, NJ. I have spent the day filling out forms, preparing for ordination, and reflecting on my own call to ministry. It seems clear for me, as a wannabe follower of the nonviolent Jesus, that ministry and peacemaking are synonymous. It also seems clear that many of my fellow Christians, even those I serve alongside in ministry, do not see it that way.
As I fill out paperwork for my own ordination, ask for references from others, and answer questions about my doctrinal positions, I wonder what my own superiors and those I have served with in ministry will say about me? Is it clear to those I serve under and those I serve with that I aim to live my life in service to a loving and nonviolent God–“to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus”?
Can I be both a committed United Methodist and a peace-and-justice advocate that is willing to risk my life and freedom by confronting the institutionalized violence and corruption of the state as well as the complacency of the Church and the religious institution to which I belong?
Of all of the vows I have made in my life to my family, to the Church, to ministry, and to myself, like John Dear, I believe that the vow of nonviolence (the vow to follow Jesus) trumps them all.
When and if I am finally ordained as a United Methodist, it will be as in pursuit of a life dedicated to preaching, teaching, and living nonviolence. In a world so addicted to violence, how could I follow Jesus and vow to be anything other than nonviolent?
Before God the Creator and the Sanctifying Spirit, I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus
- by striving for peace within myself and seeking to be a peacemaker in my daily life;
- by accepting suffering rather than inflicting it;
- by refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence;
- by persevering in nonviolence of tongue and heart;
- by living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live;
- by actively resisting evil and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.
God, I trust in Your sustaining love and believe that just as You gave me the grace and desire to offer this, so You will also bestow abundant grace to fulfill it.