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Active obedience: those were the words that latched onto my heart and brain from Sunday’s message during worship.
Our minister was talking about the Quaker testimony of peace and a Revolutionary-War era Quaker who, as a merchant, received a supply of muskets with bayonets attached as payment. He removed the bayonets, stored them, and sold the guns for hunting. When asked to sell them for the war effort, he deliberated and, finally, threw them into the sea. He was called to testify as to his intentions. Those presiding concluded he was truthful and only following his religious conscience. It may have been one of them who termed it active obedience.
So often, we think of obedience as passive, but I am beginning to believe it is anything but! What is passive about listening for God’s guidance, then following it? Sometimes the waiting and listening are hard and seem passive, but I believe it takes great strength. persaverance and effort to do so. From experience, I understand that years of waiting and listening are not inactive or passive though they may appear so on the surface.
My massage therapist/pastoral counselor has taught me that when his touch is lightest and it feels as if nothing it happening, plenty is very deeply. Healing occurs in my body on such a deep level that I am almost unaware … almost. This lesson has taught me patience.
Active obedience strikes me as a more pleasing term when discussing work toward peace than peace activist. Activist, to me, implies extremism and acting just to be acting. How can that be peaceful?
The message I received in worship about the Quaker peace testimony is that it begins within each one of us and this phrase, I believe, offers instruction on that process: that we must first explore the hidden and dark corners of our own hearts, opening them to the light of God, before we can go forth with any kind of peace at all. And what type of peace work can we do when we, ourselves, do not have internal peace. This is not to say we’ll live blissfully all of the time. Far from it, in my experience. There is, however, great comfort in surrendering to God’s guidance. Much more than from fighting it. That, I DO know.
This concept reminds me of a wonderful group I was involved with about ten years ago, Neighbor to Neighbor. I blogged about it awhile back (link). Its aim was to bridge racism between African-Americans and Caucasians. Boy, did I learn a lot … about invisible white privilege, how others have lived as less and, most importantly, that the work of reconciliation happens one heart at a time. That is what Frank Evans always said and I still hear his clear and strong voice echoing in my head, uttering those words in any circumstance, but, right now, about peace.
Peace happens one heart at a time. Let it begin with mine. Amen
• How do I define a testimony of peace?
• Does it feel active or passive to me?
• What role does obedience play?
• How do I know when I have surrendered to God?
• What does it seem or feel like to me?
I’ve worked so
hard at it
trying to achieve
I have tried so
being with God,
but the only
way for me
has been to
let God in
into my heart
show her the
and negative junk