In my book, Moral Values: What I Learned Growing Up in Church, (available as an eBook), I ask the question: “Can the Christian church, divided over different beliefs about moral values, create safe places so people can live together in love?” My answer, in part, includes a “Safe Place Covenant” to guide congregations in learning how to create places where people will feel safe enough to talk through their differences with love and respect. You can find the full covenant here.
If we want to reduce violence in our world, language must change. The more often we use words of violence – even when our intent is to be humorous – the more deeply violence becomes embedded within us. If we can change our language, perhaps we can dig out this core piece of human experience and dispose of it by exposing its corrupting influence.
Some examples of language to easily and casually used by many of us –
Cut him off at the knees
Knock his block off
“I brought you into the world, I can take you out”
Knock the stuffing out of him
I could just kill you
You do this one more time, you’re dead!
I’m gonna smack you or You can smack me for this
“Target” people or groups for any purpose”
“Battling” this and that
“Wars” on …. [poverty, terror, drugs]
I’ll give you something to cry about!
What is most important in life? In Jesus’ day among the Jewish people, what the Law said was most important. And if there was one commandment that could be considered most important, that would settle it. So someone asked Jesus what the most important commandment in the Law was, and he said: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:28-34)
Love for God and others is the most important thing in life. If we love people, can we do harm to them? If we love them, will we not respect them, be kind to them, honor them? Whatever we can say about how we would treat people whom we love describes the way we are called to live with all people. And that love comes out of our love for God and God’s love for us.
Every action, every word, every decision we make in our relationships with people comes out of a loving heart. That’s the way of Jesus. That’s our calling as Christians. How can we do violence to someone we love? How can we choose any way that will cause them harm? Nonviolent engagement is the way of love, the way of “no harm.” Everything else will flow from this.