Sept. 11 seemed to sink a terror in our bones. Our president has declared a war on terrorism and especially Osama Bin Laden. More than six months have passed and instead of the "war" winding down, it seems to be escalating. How many have already died?
Countless common people of Afghanistan who have struggled just to live under a heartless regime, some American service personnel, some of the Taliban network and others. The total number killed, although unknown to us, probably far surpasses our guesstimates. How many more will be maimed and killed? Meanwhile, at home, our freedoms are gradually being eroded.
But there are other ways, much more powerful than retribution and destruction. Jesus lived it and taught it.
First, "Do unto others as you want them to do to you." This means treating others in a just and dignified manner, the prelude to a just society. When one person or group tries to take advantage of another, ill-will readily develops, becoming the breeding ground for hate and violence. Israel-Palestine is a classic example today. International laws and agreements have been violated and suffering, carnage and death continue to spiral.
Jesus taught a second step: "Love one another, as I have loved you"; Love your enemies"; Do good to those who hate you." But you ask, does it really work? Stephen Ambrose, in his book "Wild Blue Yonder: The men and boys who flew the B-25s," tells of U.S. airmen when World War II came to a close in Europe 57 years ago. They received orders, which they readily carried out, instructing them to load their bombers, not with further weapons of destruction and death, but with food from their air bases being dismantled in Italy, and deliver it to devastated, war-torn cities across Germany and Europe. "If your enemy is hungry, give him food," Jesus taught. It must have been hard for some of those air crew who had lost close buddies over those same cities to now come on missions of mercy and love. But they did it. What a difference it made.
Now, over half a century later, Europe and the U.S. continue to be allies. Thousands of European tourists visit Alaska each summer. Hundreds of Alaskans visit over there. We can only conjecture what it might have been if we had embargoed them with the attitude, "you brought suffering and death to others, now you must endlessly suffer."
The God who made us is the One who in Jesus teaches us, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and "love one another as I have loved you." I find it easy to love those who love me. I find it difficult to do good to those who hate me. But does that mean I give up and live in hate? How about you? The Lord Himself can help us to love others. Loving our enemies changes them into our friends. Machine guns and bombs don't. Justice and love do. They are much more powerful. They are the way of Jesus.
Dr. Paul D. Beran is pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Juneau.