A NATIVE AMERICAN GRANDFATHER was talking to his grandson about how he felt about a tragedy. The older man said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, gentle, compassionate one.”
“Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” asked the grandson.
“The one I feed,” replied the grandfather.
I recently read this story in Where was God on September 11? published by Herald Press this month. The writer uses this story as an example of how conflicting feelings emerge from tragedy. The story reveals that, in order for either wolf to win or survive, it must be fed. In other words, we must choose which response to nurture: anger or compassion, revenge or love. The point is that we will nurture wolves in our heart—no matter what their names—whether we are aware of it or not.
The story stuck with me for a couple of reasons.
First, it helps me understand my own heart. Even five months after Sept. 11, the wolves in my heart are still at odds. Mine may have different names—fear, faith, control, rage, grief, justice, revenge, compassion, intellect, spirit, soul, etc.—but they all growl with bristled fur. This story has given me an image with which to understand how I fuel the motives and thoughts in my heart, even without knowing it.
But this story also gives me an image with which to view the struggle going on within the Christian church—and the MB church in particular—with how to respond to Sept. 11.
We are wrestling with issues of love for country, love for brothers and sisters around the world, love for the lost, desire for justice and desire for peace. We struggle to understand—as have many followers of Jesus through the centuries—what Jesus meant when he said to “love your enemy” (Matt. 5:44) and “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:0). What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus and a peacemaker in a time of war? How are we to respond to terrorism?
We have a choice when we begin to discuss these issues. We can feed the wolves of our faith—unity, forbearance, love, servanthood—or we can feed the wolves of sin—quarreling, anger, pride, division. Whether we know it or not, we will be feeding one wolf or the other.
Much of the time people are respectful and willing to listen to each other. But sometimes that is not the case. Labels are applied and accusations made. Relationships fray and break. People walk away bitter and angry.
When this happens, the wrong wolves are being fed. We are feeding the wolves of sin. This is forbidden to the children of God, the family of Christ. That is not who we are.
Here are some things we can consider as we try to talk with each other.
All Christians are called to be peacemakers. We have made the ultimate peace. Through faith, we have made peace with God through Jesus.
As Christians, we are also committed to peace with those around us. In the church we are called to unity—to peace—among ourselves as a body of Christ (Rom. 13:5-6). To the lost, we are commissioned to bring peace by making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28: 16-20). “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,” says Paul, “live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). We are to honor our parents, submit to one another, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. This is all part of being disciples of Jesus.
Even when we disagree among ourselves, we are called to unity, to peace. We don’t have to agree, but we cannot sin. If our disagreements lead to quarrels, fights, anger, pride or broken relationships, we have sinned.
So, how can we deal with our disagreements about peacemaking in regard to war? Elsewhere in this issue Board of Faith and Life member John Warkentin writes, “A commitment to peace is best understood on a continuum, beginning with each of us making peace with God.” At the other end is making peace with our enemies. ‘Will we ever agree on what happens at the other end of the continuum when we confront enemies and evil? Perhaps not. But there is so much peacemaking that needs to be done in between.”
Even though we disagree on applying peacemaking in time of war, we can’t let this—or any other issue—divide the family of God. A commitment to peace among us is a wolf of our faith.
Patriotism allows for dissent. Patriotism is a popular word today—and one some people misunderstand.
Secular columnists are picking up on the danger of equating patriotism with silencing voices that call for a different response to Sept. 11. Roberta de Boer of the Toledo Blade sought out Richard Kauffman, pastor of a Mennonite church and former associate editor of Christianity Today, to see how someone who is a pacifist thought about the events of Sept. 11. After she finished with the interview, he asked her, “Do you think our church will be vandalized after you quote me on all this?” Boer was stunned. “Is this how it is now in America?” she writes. “Can it be that to advocate for peace seems unpatriotic?”
Bill Tammeus, a columnist for the Kansas City Star, also cautions against narrowly defining patriotism. He describes a patriot as well-informed about current events and history and one who registers and votes, both praises and criticizes the government and is active in the community.
Writers in Christian circles echo this. Paul Schrag, editor of Mennonite Weekly Review, says, “If patriotism means wanting what is best for one’s country, and if one firmly believes that waging war will not make Americans safe or create a more just world, then advocating for peace is an act of patriotism.”
Just do it. No matter where you fall on the continuum of peacemaking, find a way to start bringing peace to those around you. It is part of who we are now, as disciples of Jesus. Whether that be sharing Jesus, cooking a hot meal, mowing a lawn, listening to a neighbor talk or doing any of the things listed on pages 17-19 of the Leader—just do it. The world needs peace.
We are always feeding wolves in our hearts and churches. We must choose carefully the wolves we feed among us.
Carmen Andres served as Christian Leader editor from 1998-2003.