1 Peter 3: 8Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. 11He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
One of the most significant moments in my life came in 1992 when I boarded a Marine Corps helicopter full of rice and food staples for a humanitarian mission to Somalia.
We were tough fighting men, slung with arms and painted for war with wounds of mind and body from fighting the Gulf War, but there we were, doing what I had joined the military for … making a difference in the world.
We were hard and bold and ready for anything but when our heavy laden birds came close to the Earth, we found we had no place to land as the people rushed under the helicopters such was the need for food. The swirling blades kicked up the smell of death as we peered from our roost in heaven looking down on the faces of hell. They were gaunt and delirious and standing on the place we needed to land to give them the gifts we bore for their survival. Then, a Marine leaned forward with a 100 lbs. bag of rice on his shoulder and punctured it with his K-Bar knife and from that simple burlap bag fell grains of survival, showering those desperate souls below as manna fell on the Israelites. Grains of rice swirled up from their descent and pelted us with the force of the rotor wash, leaving little scraps across our skin, but in the end we flew away from that desperate spot of soil, watching the hundreds of villagers covered in thousands of grains of rice and dried beans, raising their hands in thanksgiving and we sat among burlap bags, war hardened fighting men, armed for battle, bearing the scars of humanity, our faces painted in tears. God let us be his miracle that day and he offers us the same possibility ever other day of our lives.
Africa is the cradle of humanity. It is where our lives began, no matter how you believe humanity began, everything points back to Africa. It is a beautiful place, filled with beautiful people, but we have all ruined Africa. We have stolen our livelihoods from her shores, carted away the most precious of her people and elements for our own good and infected her with our social diseases, so when we talk of the problems in Africa, we are talking about our problems as a global community. It is time we took responsibility of our actions. Its time for transfiguration.
I joined the Marine Corps because I wanted to make a difference; because I was patriotic and I thought to be a patriot meant that I bent my back into the war machine to force change, but everlasting change does not come by physical force but by intellectual redirection.
I do not deny the effect my Marine Corps compatriots have made in the world because they are there to make a difference. If there were no Marine Corps, the humanitarian relief arm of the U.S. would be greatly impaired, but I believe whole-heartedly that we need to come to a better understanding of peace and the psychology of it to allow my Marine Corps brothers to live not by waging war but by manifesting peace.
There are forces at work in our world that prevent the elimination of war as a tool of peaceful propagation – Adolph Hitler had to stopped by the combined force of many nations, but would that force have been necessary if we had taken a more active part in securing the peace of Germany after the first world war? Would there have been a place for Hitler if there had been love and peace in the years after WWI?
In so many ways, I feel so close to St. Peter. I too have been brash and quick to pick up the sword against injustice thinking I was the one to save, when all along; I was the one to be saved. I too turned by back on God and tried as hard as I could to deny the truth because I didn’t want to think anyone could love me that much. It was easier to have a Jesus as an ideal image of friend, instead of the supreme savior. I too have had to come to terms with my brashness and find a better way through love.
It’s hard not to strike out against injustice, but if Peter had prevented the guards from taking Jesus away, where would we be today? Sometimes God allows injustice to bear witness to his glory. He wants us to be his miracle workers, giving ourselves to him in peace and love because when we are at peace we are malleable to God’s will. God wants to perform miracles through us but we have to make ourselves available to him to do that.
I take that kinship to heart – Peter had a special relationship with Christ. I have thought a great deal about what it must have been like for Peter, sitting on the shore of Galilee, eating a breakfast God himself cooked, suffering under the weight of having denied this perfect relationship. Then, having the weight of that transgression transfigured in three questions and commands – “Do you love me?” Christ asked.
“Take care of my lambs,” “Feed my sheep,” “Follow me.” God wants us to be his miracle workers -- he wants to make a change in our world but we have to make ourselves available to do that work. We are God's partners in this and we need to put our minds to task God gave us through Peter -- "live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing ... love life and see good days ... keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech ... turn from evil ... do good ... seek peace and pursue it.
For an egotistical control freak with a penchant for raising a heavy hand like Peter, that was a great burden to bear, but God’s direction is perfect, even his last command to Peter that day on the beach … “Stop worrying about my relationship with everybody else and focus on what I asked you to do.”
If anyone is interested in supporting my efforts to alleviate the need in Africa, please see www.Africare.org, www.DATA.org or The African Well Fund at www.africanwellfund.org.
Together with God, we can transfigure the world.