Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Lord's Prayer, Community, and Non-Violence

This morning our team gathered for prayer, scripture, and communion. One of the girls on our team, Nettie, prefaced the communion with a short reflection on The Lord's Prayer, which we had just recited. She pointed out that when Jesus taught us to pray he taught us to pray as a community sprinkling the prayer with words like "us", "we", "our" instead of "me", "I", etc. In regards to the communion, this is a relevant reminder of our unity when we gather around the Lord's table and it reminds us that our actions have consequences to the whole and effect the community, not just the self. When we eat, we eat together so that all are provided for (give us this day our daily bread), when we sin, we are forgiven in the same measure we forgive others (forgive us our trespasses), and we ask God to keep us from temptation (not just to protect the self from temptation).

One of the most common arguments/disclaimers I hear made by opponents of Christian pacifism/non-violence is that "Jesus clearly wasn't speaking to nations (communities) when he told us to love and forgive our enemies, he was only speaking of the individual Christian's responsibility." The Lord's Prayer offers us perhaps the best defense against this argument. Contrary to what opponents to Christian pacifism say, Jesus always meant for his teachings to be carried out in the context of community. They were never meant to be understood strictly as personal moral teachings. The Lord's Prayer emphasizes this when it teaches us to ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This section of the prayer compliments the ethic of loving our enemies that is taught in Matthew 5.

In a previous post of quotations I have stumbled across as of late I left something that St. Augustine had said about loving our enemies. Augustine goes as far as to say that "your sins will not be forgiven if you do not offer them with mercy (toward those who have sinned against you)." Next time you gather with your community, remember what the Lord's Prayer calls us to do and ask yourself, "Are we (my community, my church, my nation) forgiving others their trespasses? Are we loving our enemies?"

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