Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. ~Luke 14:25-33
The lectionary isn’t always this timely, but it does seem to happen now and then. As we are on the verge of war with Syria, I wonder if we have truly weighed the cost. Having lived in Oklahoma for almost three years, we came to know many families who had a loved one serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; sadly, I knew many children through the preschool I worked at and later in the public schools whose parent had been killed in action.
Have we truly weighed the cost as a nation considering war? We have seen the bodies of children after the chemical weapons attack; how many more bodies will be added to that from our strikes? For surely we cannot guarantee a school or daycare or homes will not be destroyed. We cannot guarantee more children’s bodies will be added to the pyre. What kind of deterrence will missile strikes make? Or will it just make a new generation of people in another land hate us?
I could go on and on. But Church, we’re the one that needs to weigh the cost:
What are we holding on to when we don’t speak up against war? Fear of rocking the boat? Fear of offending those who have served before?
What is possessing us that we step out of the conversation and instead stick to preaching personal salvation? A false sense of security that we are doing the right thing and not becoming political?
If we truly are to carry our cross—the instrument of death—what is it that we need to put to death to follow Jesus? Is it our fears? Our need to fit in? Our need to keep the “peace” with the people around us even if it means the silent majority outside of our relationships will suffer?
My mother and stepfather love bumper stickers. My mother has lots of peace-related bumper stickers on her car. She has twice been almost run off the road because of her bumper-sticker statements. Once I was in the car with her and two men yelled from their truck on the highway, showing her their dog tags, and then violently turned their car into her lane. My stepfather, who did two tours in Korea and Vietnam, proudly has "Veterans for Peace" bumper stickers on his truck. He also has had threats, but not quite as severe.
Peace is not the easy way out. Peace is hard. Peace is the way of the cross, to meet the world's violence with nonviolence. Peace is the way of Jesus, who calls us to put away the sword.
We need to sit down and weigh the cost—in other words, we have to stop being wishy-washy. Are we going to stand, or are we going to be silent?
Church, we need to stand up and demand that our leaders seek peace. There is still time to call your Senators and Representatives. There is still time to have prayer vigils for peace. There is still time to work with other peacemaking organizations and join up in your local community.
There is still time for peace. Maybe, just maybe, this time can be different. We can actually weigh the cost of our silence and weigh the cost of war, and say, “no more.”