(Getting up at 5 AM to write a post isn’t a whole lot of fun, but now that I have all my books in one place again, hopefully, these posts are going to get even better. Here’s today’s Peace on the Inside post.)
At the root of all war is fear, not so much the fear men have of one another as the fear they have if everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another, they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill them, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves. They cannot trust anything, because they have ceased to believe in God. – Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, ch 16.
This fear that Merton speaks of is an interesting one, to say the least. War, be it in its largest form or the smallest argument, stems from this same fear, though. We fear others greatly, even ourselves, and because of this fear, we hate our brother and every imperfection and wrong within him, and are “unable to see it in ourselves.” We’ll do all we can to eliminate this evil by destroying other individuals or at least putting them out of sight (solitary confinement). What we don’t realize is that the evil we see in them is the same that exists within us. If we are to learn to love our brother, as Scripture tells us, how can we, when the evil we see in them that disgusts us so much also taints our own spirits?
We will continue to be afraid of others until we remove the scales we have placed on our own eyes, and can see our brothers right in front of us and can see them as the same sin-stained individual that we are. How do we do that? We cannot peal the scales off our own eyes, for no work of Man is capable of removing blind hatred. Take a look at the apostle Paul, who, before converting to Christianity, sought to destroy it in the name of his own faith. Paul was practically one of the original jihadists, dragging Christians into the street and killing them, or nodding in approval of their deaths at the hands of others (see the death of Stephen in Acts 7). Why turn such hatred on a people rooted not only in the very Abrahamic faith he professed, but one even more firmly rooted in the love of God?
It is no secret that Jesus and his disciples taught that mankind was stained with sin and called others to repentance. This was incredibly offensive to the Jews, who believed that the law of Moses made them holy, and the religious authorities of the day sought to destroy this movement, for fear not only of removal from power, but for fear that they were right, and for fear that the sins they saw in the Christians who admitted their own sins were, in fact, the same ones they were guilty of. When the penitent come to God, they realize how wrong they’ve been, and, in turn, see the same imperfection in themselves they see in others. The pharisees, not wanting to be seen as the same as those “horrible sinners and pagans,” lashed out in anger against the teachings of Christ, and attempted to stop their spreading at all costs.
Yet they could not stop it, for when a man looks at himself and his own imperfections and sees that He is the same as his brother who stumbles just the same, and turns to Christ for forgiveness, it is then that love has entered him, and this love cannot be contained. In turn, love spreads, and calls others to repentance, not in some sort of “repent or you’ll go to Hell” fashion, but in a way that says, “We are all fallen, and only Christ can help us stand up. We are all fallen, and through Christ, we will help each other stand up.” As Justin Martyr defended how Christians acted to the Emperor, he stated it eloquently as such:
We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder, and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for plowshares, our spears for farm tools…now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness, faith, and the love of man. – Justin Martyr.
When Paul was on his way to Damascus to continue his work, a blinding light shone and took his eyesight, and he heard the voice of Jesus Himself calling him to stop what he was doing, to stop persecuting his brother. Paul was called on his own BS, to put it bluntly, and when Ananias came to him three days later, Paul undoubtedly wrestled with his own imperfection which Jesus called him out of.
And when Paul finally saw his own imperfections, the scales fell from his eyes.
What about you? Are you blinded by the scales in your eyes? Do you need to remove them?