From the book
CARING ENOUGH TO CONFRONT
by David Augsburger (1980)
Care-fronting, Truthing it,
Forgiving, Challenging, Accepting,
Canceling demands, Owning responsibility, Dropping blame, Forgetting prejudice, Acting in loving Reconciling ways.
Making peace is the Jesus way
Getting Together Again
Caring people who dare to be present with people when they are hurting and stand with people where they are hurting.
Peacemaking begins by truly being there for others.
It's much easier to avoid making contact with another's pain. All that's necessary is to quickly give advice. Tell him what to do with his troubles. Tell her where to go with her complaints. Get him off your back. Get her out of your hair.
It's so much easier to tell a fellowman what to do about his hurts than to stand with him in his pain.
It is much simpler to be a problem-solver for a sister than to share any part of her suffering.
Peacemaking is first being truly present with another.
Confronting people who are willing to help finish the old business of the past and foster the freedom of persons to claim a future with the promise of becoming a new community.
Peacemaking proceeds by inviting the past to pass. And being present with another in the here and now.
Finish the past by dropping old demands, canceling old criticisms and prejudices. Accept the woman or man who is with you now.
We are all free to change, free to be new, now. Free to become who we can be. Change to new life is the natural order of things when God is at work among us. "Behold I make all things new." is His pledge. We need to go with—to flow with—His stream of life-changing growth.
Caring, confronting, valuing people who have discovered long-range vision, long-term goals, a long view of human existence, principles that are more universally applicable.
Universal principles are values which prize the equal worth of all humans, promote the equal human rights of all humankind, seek after justice for all God's creation.
Peacemakers who have caught a vision of a lasting peace commmit themselves not only to short-term gains but also to long-term goals.
Immediate solutions have their place. They can reduce explosive tensions so that longer-range settlements can be negotiated.
Strategic solutions have their use. They can create a working agreement among parties that holds together until a more stable covenant can be made.
Temporary solutions are often the best we can achieve. In every state of concord lies the seeds of future conflict. In every state of conflict the crucial elements for creating peace lie hidden. The normal rhythm of life is concord-conflict-concord-conflict-concord. Thus all solutions are temporary, all agreements tentative. Everything we achieve will be surpassed.
Peacemakers who take the long view recognize that the values which shape their decisions must be lasting values, values which transcend not only one's own culture, race and nation, but also one's own lifetime, century, even millennium.
Nothing that is truly worth doing is ever completed in one generation's lifetime. Nothing that is truly worth attempting can be accomplished by one person without the help, support, guidance, wisdom of the community. Nothing that will be lasting, that will endure, makes complete sense in any immediate situation, in any given moment in history.
So peacemakers take a long view. They seek to set their consciences by those values that have depth in the history of humankind, that have breadth in their universal applicability, that have height in their accountability before God and all that is known through God's saving activity among His people.
So peacemakers are people of conscience. Not the narrow conscience of self-accusing, self-negating perfectionism, but the broad, deep, high and long-visioned conscience of internalized values, convictions and commitments. This can make them appear a bit out of step with the status quo. They may in fact seem alienated, but that alienation occurs because they refuse to accept the alienation of an alienated community which has come to accept its own alienation as natural, inevitable, and permanent.
"I'm never opening my mouth at work on how I feel about any political issues, or race troubles, or any of that," you tell your wife. "That bunch of bluenosed conservatives would pick me clean like a flock of vultures.''
"You're going to just stay mum, eh?'' she asks.
"Yeah, buy me a turtleneck; I'm keeping my head in."
"But what does it do to you inside to keep your honest feelings hidden?" your wife asks.
"I don't know," you say. "It does make me look like a different man than I really am. I've got to do better than that. I want to be able to put what I really feel on the line—and still stay in touch with the guys. Maybe that's the secret."
Following the conscience is a uniquely human gift. It is a capacity deserving our immediate respect. It dare not be automatically suspect. Conscience is not a faculty to be feared but a human quality to be prized and valued. In communities of outer-directed conformity, a conscience that varies from the mass mind will be feared as a dangerous force which may make a person an intolerable misfit, out of step with the rank and file and, since different, someone to be excluded.
Without conscientious wisdom, human beings become inhuman. Persons become unquestioning robots. And human community becomes a mass of pliable and pitiable puppets manipulated by the strings of any chance chain of command.
With a "conscientious wisdom," women and men become persons of integrity, sensitive to values, committed to truth. "Conscientious wisdom" is the necessary quality. It is a conscience open to and committed to truth—a conscience informed by obedience to this knowledge.
It must be a "conscientious wisdom"—not blind obedience to conscience. A conscience unexamined, unexplored, untested by truth can be a dangerous, even a deadly guide. No man will kill you with less compunction than a man who kills in obedience to his conscience. But a "conscientious wisdom" is a conscience open to, instructed by, and committed to the highest truth man has found in all that is available to him.
True, there are risks to following conscience. But more crimes have been committed in the name of duty and obedience to authority than in the name of conscience.
"Conscientious wisdom" is a love of truth. It is obedience to truth. It is a willingness to examine and test all truth, to sift from the good the better, from the better the best, from me best the ultimate.
"Conscientious wisdom" is a kind of courage. It is the courage to be a person. Courage to believe in values. Courage to see meaning in life. Courage to act with purpose. Courage to conform one's loyalties to one's true scale of priorities.
"Conscientious wisdom" always demands courage because following the conscience is a vulnerable act. It exposes a woman or a man to ridicule, to anger, to public rejection, to shame, to suffering, even to violence.
(Consider Martin Luther King, a man who acted in conscience, a man who died for conscience' sake. Three years before his death I heard him say to a network newscaster, “If I choose to go on living by my conscience, I may survive at the most for five more years. I could compromise my conscience and perhaps live to be 80. Either way I die. The one way I would simply postpone my burial.")
"Conscientious wisdom" may be an act of faith. The faith that your decision is the most responsible choice open to you. The faith that choosing the right thing is the best thing even though the cost seems staggering. The faith that time will vindicate the tightness of your act even though friends may condemn you now.
Let's apply this to a case in point. Violence, violent systems and violent war.
"That boy will be a CO only over my dead body," your husband says.
He's beginning to shout at you and you're only reporting what your son's letter said.
"No son of mine is going to be a—conscientious objector. If he doesn't want to volunteer, okay. But to declare himself a CO is senseless."
"It's his decision, not yours," you say.
"So you're supporting the kid's yellow ideas," your husband snaps. "Or are they pink?"
All kinds of words rush to your tongue in defense of your son. You bite them back; your son doesn't need your protection. Not against his own father. All he needs is an honest— and caring—mother, and you can be both without letting this divide your marriage. "Dear, listen," you say. "I don't want this or anything else to come between us, understand?"
"Let's stick to our own decisions and let our son make his. Neither of us agrees with all the choices he makes. We see this one from different sides, but that's okay."
"You want him to go yellow?" your husband asks.
"No, I want him to be a man, who's free to choose his own values and live them. It's not only his right, but it's his responsibility to make decisions by his own conscience.''
As an experiment in conscientious care-fronting, let's look at the issue of participation in warfare.
If a war were declared unjust by your religious principles, by other persons of careful thought—would you fight in it?
For example. If you had been a 20-year-old male citizen of Germany in 1940, would you have obeyed orders to machine-gun Jewish mothers, daughters, and babies into a muddy trench grave? Or would you have fought in the Rhine-land in unquestioning obedience if you saw your regime committing the mass murder of the Jewish race?
Would you refuse to fight an unjust war? If so, how do you go about determining whether the war is or is not unjust?
You can't use the 20-20 vision of historical hindsight. You won't likely have access to international opinion in order to shape your own in a time of national crisis.
When you come to the actual decision, the responsibility rests on you. On your conscience. On your best insight, your convictions, your principles, your sense of truth.
How, then, do people of good conscience go about deciding if a war is justifiable or not?
The first option: A Blank-Check Decision.
Any war that my government declares or enters I must support, and anything my government asks I'm responsible to obey.
This option avoids all confrontation, by offering blanket obedience.
We are responsible to obey our government. But to obey it responsibly is one thing. To follow it blindly is another. To give the state a blank check, "I'll go anywhere, do anything to anyone in obedience to any command," is to cease being a moral being—a human being.
If you accept any justification for war, you will fight in any war-—just or unjust, legal or criminal.
No, the blind obedience of a blank-check attitude just won't do for men of conscience.
A second option: The Holy War. Any war that defends our nation and its way of life is holy, right and good.
This option avoids real confrontation by dividing the world into the holy versus the unholy, so the decision is made by the definition given, and choice is eliminated.
Is any nation's way of life totally holy, right? Of course not. To give everything for one's country simply because it is one's country is absolute worship. Nationalism becomes religion. Patriotism turns into idolatry. It denies that there is a God in heaven whose truth is eternal and whose kingdom is above all. Such idolatry is neither moral nor rational.
Sometimes this argument is stated, "Any war that defends our Christian nation, or Christendom against communism, or Christians against paganism is automatically right." Muslims, Marxists, Maoists, and Christians have gone to battle to advance their causes. But to justify a war as a "Christian crusade" is like talking of dry wetness or hot coldness. Jesus Christ never sanctioned war, never approved violence. His every word and action repudiated man's way of hate, murder, violence, and self-defense. He laid down His life for the sake of others. He did not take the sword even in self-defense.
Self-defense is no Christian virtue. If the survival of our culture or our own survival is our sole remaining purpose, we are not Christian. Survival is not a Christian virtue. Life is not to be maintained by any means. The ends do not justify the means.
[SELF DEFENCE OF YOUR FAMILY IS CORRECT; YOU SHOULD AS HEAD OF THE FAMILY DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY FROM THE HORRORS THAT MEN TO DO TO WOMEN AND CHILDREN. YOU HAVE A GOD GIVEN RIGHT TO PROTECT THEM - Keith Hunt]
The third option: A Just War. Through the centuries, men have agonized over the decisions of how certain acts of violence or warfare may be justified. When a conflict qualifies by certain criteria as justifiable, it has been called "a just war." (Just is short for justifiable. No war can be truly considered "just" to all involved.)
This option necessitates confrontation. It is truly a choice forced upon the just and the unjust.
The Greeks originated the concept. "A just war" was any war declared by the Greeks against the non-Greeks, the Barbarians. The Romans added the criteria that such a war must be (1) fought by soldiers not civilians, and (2) that it must be fought with just means for just causes. Christians (after Constantine baptized his entire army into the church in the year 300) adapted those criteria for themselves.
Today our standards for a just war have been set forth in our individual national constitutions, sharpened by the Geneva Conventions on warfare and canonized in the creeds of most major Christian denominations.
All agree on four major issues:
A just war must be (1) declared by a just authority, (2) fought for the one justifiable cause of establishing an orderly and just peace, (3) fought with justifiable proportionality between the amount of harm done and the benefits hoped for, and (4) fought by a just means, respecting noncombatants, and refusing inhumane weapons.
[THIS IS THE MNIND OF THE WORLD; YES GOOD IN THAT SENSE, AS THE HUMAN MIND CAN FIGURE WHAT IS A “JUST WAR” AND HOW TO FIGHT IT - Keith Hunt]
Do thoughtful Christians apply these principles when they are called up to fight? The record is not too good. When wars are being waged by other nations, men and women of conscience are seldom hesitant to apply the criteria. But when their own nation is involved, objectivity and motivation to think in clear moral terms tend to disappear.
If we are going to be human beings, to be responsible or—what is more—to be Christian, the alternatives are (1) either we can endure the agony of deciding on the justice or injustice of war, or (2) we can reject war.
For the first 200 years of the Christian faith, Christ's followers, like their Master, renounced the sword, rejected war and died refusing violence even in self-defense.
[SELF DEFENCE AND IN A CORNER WHEN THE FAMILY IS GOING TO BE BRUTALLY HARMED, IS WITHIN THE LAW OF GOD. A GROUP OF THUGS GOING TO ATTACK YOUR WIFE AND CHILDREN, INVADING YOUR HOME; IT IS WITHIN GOD’S LAW TO DEFEND THEM IN WHATEVER WAY YOU CAN - Keith Hunt]
By the year 400 Augustine was approving a "just war"; by the year 1000 "Christians" were fighting "holy" crusades; and by the twentieth century churches and Christians were accepting violence as long as it served to stop the Nazis, the Fascists, the communists. During the two World Wars, bishops blessed bayonets and bazookas on both sides.
[SIGNING UP AND BEING IN A NATION’S WAR MACHINE IS ANOTHER MATTER ALTOGETHER - Keith Hunt]
History testifies to the difficulty of making this decision. Christian thinker John Howard Yoder asks, "Did any Christians [who held to a 'just war' doctrine] ever conclude, after their government had committed itself to war that the cause was unjustified and/or the means used were inappropriate and that therefore they should not serve? Such cases [prior to Vietnam] are few, or nonexistent."
Once war is declared the pressures to give blanket approval usually win out over any and all moral considerations. For pragmatic, expedient reasons we choose "to accommodate the integrity of love to the realities of life."
Christ Himself chose not to accommodate. He chose love as the final basis of action and acted consistently with that love. His associate, Peter, reports: "Indeed this is your calling. For Christ suffered for you and left you a personal example, so that you might follow in his footsteps. He was guilty of no sin nor of the slightest prevarication. Yet when he was insulted he offered no insult in return. When he suffered he made no threats of revenge. He simply committed his cause to the One who judges fairly" (1 pet. 2:21-23, Phillips).
"Yes, yes, well and good," many say in response to all this, "but I'm not Jesus. So He was absolutely sure of Himself, His principles, His position, His actions. But I can't be. So I accommodate and go to war. It stands to reason. It's just good sense!
Does it stand to reason? What about this argument that ''Christ's demands are too absolute, too narrow, too single-minded to work in an imperfect world"?
Granted, all people and all human ways of life are imperfect. That's only another way of saying that we humans at our best are only relatively right. (That is not to say that right and wrong are relative.) It is the honest confession that no one of us has all the facts, all the insight, or possesses all truth.
But that is no argument against Christ's way of nonviolence. It's the very reverse.
If our best reasons and decisions are only partially or relatively good, then to take absolute and final actions—to snuff out lives with bombs, to napalm the earth bare of people, to exterminate one human or a whole city—all in pursuit of some imperfect relative good is irresponsible to Jesus Christ.
If you choose to fight in wars you consider just, or if you with me choose to reject all war as outside the will of God, come to your decision in clear open exercise of your conscience, weighing all truth available to you.
Anything less is being irresponsible to God, to humanity, to our nation, to our world, to our friends or to our enemies.
Obedience to conscience is the only true patriotism. Obedience to truth is the only true statesmanship.
"Happy are the peacemakers," Jesus once said, "because they are called God's sons.''
Yes. They are. They are people who recognize the God of peace as their Father, the Prince of Peace as their leader, and the way of peacemaking as the only Christlike way of life.
[THE NEW TESTAMENT AS JESUS TAUGHT IT WAS FAR AND ABOVE THE OLD TESTAMENT; JESUS CAME TO MAGNIFY THE LAW OF GOD [ISA. 42:21]. WHAT WAS PERMITTED UNDER THE OLD TESTAMENT, LIKE POLYGAMY AND WAR, IS NOT SO PERMITTED TO INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIANS. SOME HAVE ACCEPTED WORKING AS “MEDICS” IN WAR, SAVING LIVES ON BOTH SIDES, LIKE THE RECENT (2017) TRUE MOVIE “HACKSAW RIDGE.” A CHRISTIAN TODAY UNDER THE DEEPER SPIRITUAL ESSENCE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT HAS MANY REASONS HE CAN NOT BE PART OF A NATION’S WAR MACHINE…..OBSERVING THE WEEKLY SABBATH AND SABBATHS OF GOD’S HOLY FESTIVALS IS ONE HUGE REASON - Keith Hunt]
Peacemakers risk stepping into moments of conflict to do curative peace work, to heal torn relationships, and even to do a bit of surgery where needed. And they're also concerned about preventive peacemaking. They look for building hostilities—and help to relieve them while they're still forming before they reach the explosive stage.
How do they do this preventive peacemaking?
By following the way of Jesus. In these specifics:
First, they look at people; not in evaluation of what they have been or have done but by what they are now. Jesus-people (peacemakers) look to see what that new thing is and what form it is taking.
As the Bible puts it: ''The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ. . . . This means that our knowledge of men can no longer be based on their outward lives (indeed, even though we knew Christ as a man we do not know him like that any longer). For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether—the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new" (2 Cor. 5:14,16,17, Phillips).
Secondly, peacemakers look for strengths in others and encourage them. They sense where there are gifts and talents lying dormant or ignored, and affirm them.
As the Bible says: "For just as you have many members in one physical body and those members differ in their functions, so we, though many in number, compose one body in Christ and are all members of one another. . . .Let us have no imitation Christian love. Let us have a
genuine hatred for evil and a real devotion to good. Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers, and a willingness to let the other man have the credit'' (Rom. 12:4,5,9,10, Phillips).
Look for opportunities of affirming, of encouraging, of helping release others to become all they can be in Christ.
Love is the important thing, not brilliant insight into persons and personalities.
Honesty is the indispensable thing, not attempting to avoid and gloss over the difficulty with a glaze of sweetness.
Love with honesty, caring with confronting, truthing it in love—these are the keys.
Concern for mutual fulfillment, joint opportunities for service and shared meaningful work is the real goal.
Peacemaking love works out the mathematics of justice.
Peacemaking love looks after each person's welfare and concerns.
Peacemaking love sees each person as precious simply because he is.
Love. The word falls short when we attempt to put all this freight within it. No one word is sufficient to state all that we mean. With one exception.
The biblical word for love, agape in the Greek, holds a rich constellation of meanings that sums up peacemaking love.
The biblical model for love, Jesus, gathers all these meanings into one exemplary life. He is the model for the biblical teachings on loving relationships.
Substitute the name "Jesus" for Paul's word "love" in his description of this just, caring concern and things come clear (see I Cor. 13).
"Jesus was patient, kind, never jealous, boastful or arrogant. He did not act unbecomingly, did not first seek His own interests, was not touchy; did not keep account of wrongs suffered nor gloat over the hardships of others. His greatest joy was seeing truth come to life. He accepted all that people said or did to Him, trusted all who approached Him, believed the best for all who despaired. He set no limits for what He could endure. His concern, respect, and compassion could outlast anything.''
That fleshes out the word love. The apostle Paul had an unusual word available to him to sum all this meaning into verbal shorthand, agape.
Agape has been defined as "benevolent love," or "self-sacrificial love," or "disinterested love," or "self-giving love," or "unconditional-concerned-respect," or "neighbor-regarding-love." The best definition that brings together the whole of biblical teaching on love is "equal regard." Valuing neighbor as self; prizing others as you prize yourself; seeing another as precious, wrathful and irreducibly valuable is equal regard. These are action words, behavioral terms. Love is something you do. That's where our Western languages and Western ways of thinking shortchange us. For us, love is largely a matter of feelings, attitudes, and emotional responses. Agape is action. It is equal regard acted upon in equal respect. It's a caring way of responding to people as persons of value. It's a confronting way of relating to people as individuals of infinite worth in God's sight, and therefore in your own.
Jesus valued the needs of the neighbor above all else. For Him, concern for others is the supreme value, the one thing of infinite worth.
To be specific, to say that neighbor-love is infinitely superior in value to human knowledge is to say that no gain in human knowledge is worth even the smallest loss of neighbor-love. Or to say that neighbor-love is infinitely superior to any human achievements is to say that no amount of increase in human achievement and success is worth even the smallest decrease in Christlike love.
The Jesus way of love-in-acttons-of-ultimate-concern-for-others is the one course of action which is of infinite value.
The Jesus way of loving-deeds is a life-style of living/or, unshakeably for, unconditionally for, unreservedly for the highest good for others. (Not in servile obedience to human whims but in concerned commitment to the highest good for others.)
Persons matter most
Those who live in the Jesus-way of love seek the highest good they can find (God's kingly rule) and share it in acted-out deeds of loving service, concern, respect, and even self-sacrifice.
People matter most
They act in love, not because it is the safe thing to do. (It doesn't guarantee either success or survival.) Nor because it is the brilliant thing to do. (It seldom is the clever strategy or the pragmatic route of common sense.) They act in love because it is the Jesus thing to do, the Jesus way to live, the Jesus kind of loving.
And since He alone has triumphed in the one permanent victory of all time—love acted out on a cross—His way is the only way that is certain to triumph totally, finally, ultimately, eternally.
So, for those who have come to accept this Jesus as Supreme Commander of creation and to regard His words and His ways as the final authority on life and living, for such people this strange quality of love keeps cropping out.
At unusual times, in unexpected ways, with unexplainable strength, this undefinable "something" appears.
It's the Jesus way of living, flawlessly demonstrated in the Jesus of the New Testament, and made possible today by the Jesus strength-to-love which Christians call the Holy Spirit.
It is caring in full valuation of another.
It is confronting without violation of the other.
It is care-fronting in equal regard.
For Further Experience
1. Examine the four classic alternatives for the Christian conscience and participation in warfare. List benefits and liabilities of each. Affirm your own criteria for decision-making.
(1) The blank-check approach. Whatever my government asks, I must do. The Bible commands obedience. I am not morally responsible for any acts done when under orders. (Nuremberg, Tokyo, the My Lai trials all say otherwise.)
The holy-war stance. Any war that defends a Christian nation or Christendom against communism is a crusade for liberty, justice, and righteousness. (Christians believed this in the Middle Ages. It has had no continuing support by any Christian group except in times of great national stress.)
The just-war conviction. A war can be justified if (a) declared by just authority, (b) fought to bring a just and orderly peace, (c) fought with clear proportionality between amount of harm and benefits hoped for, (d) fought by just means, by combatants only, without inhumane weapons.
Nonviolent love. War only creates the conditions for further wars. Violence breeds new and more vicious violent reprisals. Someone must break the cycle. Jesus called His followers to accept this challenge unconditionally. (Refusing to participate in violence is risky. There is no guarantee of either survival or success.)
Choose a friend, partner, associate and test out the following assumptions as applied to your relationship. Work through the differences that arise.
Reflect on what you are learning about life together.
1. If conflict is natural, neutral, and potentially creative, as well as possibly destructive, how can Christians best fulfill their roles as peacemakers?
(1) By avoiding conflict?
(2) By denouncing conflict?
(3) Or by becoming creative persons who choose the love-fight and break through barriers by caring-confronting persistence?
2. If conflict can become a creative force for honest intimacy, how do we work at differences?
(1) Discarding hidden strategies so that varied views and concealed disagreements can be exposed?
(2) Increasing both trust and risk so that hidden factors can be shared and fearful people can experiment with openness?
(3) Initiating love-truth, care-confront conversations where individuality can be expressed and then unity chosen and celebrated?
3. Since love is the way to perceive you as well as me, I want to love you enough to tell you the truth, and be truthful enough to demonstrate my love. To care-front. To truth it with you. To experience the love-fight.
A LOT COVERED IN THIS RELATIVELY SHORT BOOK. THE BASIC OF IT ALL IS THAT AT TIMES, CONFRONTING CONFLICT WILL NEED TO BE ADDRESSED IN THE FAMILY AND IN THE CHURCH AND IN INDIVIDUAL LIVES OUTSIDE THE FIRST ONES. IT ALL NEEDS TO HAPPEN IN A HUMBLE, LOVING WAY; IN SELF-CONTROL, IN AS FRIENDLY AN ATMOSPHERE AS POSSIBLE; WITH A LISTENING MIND; WITH AN ATTITUDE TO RESOLVE THE MATTER; AN ATTITUDE TO HEAL, TO FORGIVE AND FORGET WHEN NEEDED; TO CONFRONT SO A DEEPER RESPECT CAN BE ACHIEVED BY ALL CONCERNED.
FOR THE SUBJECT OF “CHURCH DISFELLOWSHIPPING” SEE UNDER SECTION ON “CHURCH GOVERNMENT.”