Love Is the Way to Peace

A demonstrator holds an FCNL sign at the Ministers’ March for Justice in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 2017. Photo by renaschild.

Friends, it breaks my heart when I hear someone ask us to hold in the Light and pray for a certain country, party, faction, or candidate. We can’t hold just one side of a war or one kind of politician in the Light. Peace is impossible when there is “us” (good guys) and “them” (bad/evil guys). So I write to remind you that there is that of God in your enemy. God is the animating Spirit in all of us: if there were nothing of God in someone, they would be dead.

Responding to that of God in each other is the way to peace. As Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and John Woolman all demonstrated, love leads to change in people. What erases fear and hatred is recognizing our common humanity; it’s seeing that what appears to be “other” is a likeness of ourselves.

George Fox said there is an ocean of light and love that is over the ocean of darkness. We add to that ocean of light through our prayers and through sending our loving energy to the world. We add to it by helping other people to love by being, again as Fox said, patterns (models) and examples. That’s the way to peace.

Any “enemy” has the same wants and needs as we do: a home, food, love, sufficient security about the future, a place in the community. Whatever “they” are doing—from local elections to global war—comes out of their need to survive and feel protected from what they fear, even as some or all of our own actions do. The way to assuage these fears is to demonstrate respect and good will, and to respond to that of God in them.

We must do this with everyone. Responding to someone with hatred and violence, or demonizing them, only creates more fear in them. Nothing good comes from increasing fear on either side.

If your neighbor knows that you love them, would they steal from you, take over your home, or kill you in order to feel safe with you in their world? If they feel your respect and love for them, would they believe that you stand in the way of their getting their needs met?

Fear brings the need for competition, for taking by force. We must build trust and community in order to replace competition—and its attendant need for power—with cooperation in the world.

We’re all on this planet together. The Friends Committee for National Legislation bumper sticker says: “Love Thy Neighbor. (No Exceptions.)” This is not only a spiritual exercise of the highest importance and difficulty, it is the only way for us to get our own needs permanently met.

Shulamith Clearbridge

Shulamith Clearbridge resides in Woodlyn, Pa., and is a member of Swarthmore (Pa.) Meeting. She is a spiritual director, writer, and workshop and retreat leader. She is the author of Pendle Hill pamphlet 479, to be published in February: Plain Talk about Dying: The Spiritual Effects of Taking My Father Off Life Support, and Good Night: Interfaith Prayers and Meditations Before Sleep, to be published by Barclay Press in November.

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