A Shotgun Under the Christmas Tree

October 28, 2013

Dwight Lee Wolter

"Turn the other cheek." - Matthew 5:39

When I was twelve years old, my father bought me a shotgun for Christmas. Sitting under the Christmas tree in my pajamas with a shotgun in my lap with Christmas carols playing on the stereo, he taught me the names and functions of the parts. Then he took me into the woods and taught me how to hold, load, aim, and to "squeeze, not pull the trigger."

And then, in a lowered, gravely voice he issued a stern forewarning: "When you shoot this gun, the kickback may knock you on your butt." Later, in school, I discovered that my father's lesson in weaponry was also a lesson in Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Newton's law is equally true in the spiritual realm. When I explode a destructive force at you; the same destruction is unleashed on me. When I fire hate into the universe, hate is thrust with equal force back on me. When I blast blame in your direction, your reaction to blame might knock me on my butt.

The only thing that will alter this law is to react in a different way.

At the port in Cape Town, South Africa--not far from the sculpture of the four Nobel Peace Prize recipients South Africa has produced--is another sculpture of a pistol with the barrel tied in a knot. Someone has to stop reacting to anger with anger; to hate with hate; to violence with violence.

Turning the other cheek is not an act of humility or humiliation. It is learning to respond and not react to provocation. It is an act of dignity and preservation. It is an act of responding to the hate of humanity with the grace of divinity.

I fired my shotgun a few times at beer cans sitting on fence posts and then I put it down and became a sharpshooter for peace, justice and reconciliation.

Prayer

Help me, O God, to pound my weapons into plowshares, and to turn the other cheek.

About the Author
Dwight Lee Wolter is the author of several books, including A Life Worth Waiting For! and Forgiving Our Grownup Children (Pilgrim Press). He is pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York.
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