My dear friends,
As we approach the joy of Christmas, the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, and the turkey dinners with family and friends, we are reminded of the fulfillment of the promise of God, his son Jesus, who dispels all darkness and is the everlasting hope of mankind.
As the angels heralded in the glorious news of the Saviour’s birth, they sang, ‘Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and goodwill toward men.’ Jesus’ birth heralded peace and goodwill towards all mankind, even towards our enemies. Jesus himself taught us to love our enemies.
In the many encounters that I have had over the years with a wide variety of difficult individuals and networks, some of whom have been hostile, ruthless, or even violent, I have come to understand that evil is not final. It is not unchangeable, or irreversible. The message of the Saviour’s birth is the message of peace and goodwill. Active peacemaking breaks the cycle of violence and counter-violence. It leaves open the possibility of conversion. It is unlikely to alienate our opponents.
We may say to ourselves that we have never answered violence with violence. But even if there is an attitude of violence in our interactions, it inevitably arouses in the minds of both parties, emotions of resentment, fear, or even hatred. In a conflict ridden engagement, all the habits of forbearance and humaneness are lost, and nothing matters any more except victory.
Paul reminds us in Romans 12, ‘Let us not repay evil for evil, let us master evil with good.’ He is asking us to convert evil into good, to convert destruction into creation. Our opponents, whoever they might be, either at a personal or a wider level, can be weaned from error by love, by patience, by goodwill. If we engage in a constant, beneficial interaction with our opponents, we can arrive at ultimate reconciliation.
As we spread goodwill in all our relationships, mutual trust and respect is developed. Sometimes we may need to persist relentlessly in our peacemaking efforts, so that our own goodwill can harness the power of good in the other. What a beautiful way, a way that shows us that no one is an enemy. We are fighting the antagonisms, not the antagonist. The objective is not to assert propositions, but to create possibilities. This way, antagonisms can be liquidated.
An attitude of violence towards another can prevent an honest appreciation of our shared divinity and humanity. An attitude of violence against another is also violence against one’s own self.
This Christmas, as we remember the song of the angels, let us pray that active peacemaking and goodwill will become our Christian imperative, our creed, our way of life.
I offer you my grateful thanks for being such wonderful friends of Asha. May you experience God’s abundant blessings this Christmas and New Year.