Q: When I address groups, I am often asked about favorite persons in the Bible.
Answer: Of course, my first answer is the Prince of Peace. I have written much about the savior who gave his life for others. The Bible presents a partial view of Jesus’ everyday life, yet it is enough to understand his message which was revealed by word and deed. His footsteps lead us on the path of kindness and helpfulness. We can learn how to become a friend to those we meet.
These thoughts lead me to imagine the everyday fellowship that Jesus shared with his disciples. I think about the fellowship he shared with his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. When Jesus came to Bethany and was told that Lazarus was dead, he saw Mary, Lazarus’ sister, weeping. He responded as a friend, “He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled and wept. This moving story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection is told in John, Chapter 11.
The way he lived his life on earth tells us the way we should live. Jesus, the Savior, was also a friend.
As I am writing, the song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” comes to mind. It was written by Joseph Scriven in 1855.
Sources describe Preacher Scriven as a man who traveled around and cut wood only for those in need. His everyday kindness and support proved him to be a friend to strangers.
While thinking about friendships and acts of kindness, my friend, Father Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit Priest, came to mind. He was devoted to Christ in word and deed. I knew him as a priest whose mission was peace and justice and as a human being who embraced many with friendship. He was on call to respond to human needs and to offer moral support. He took the lessons taught by Jesus seriously. Berrigan wrote,“The gift we can offer others is so simple a thing as hope.”
I witnessed his acts of kindness and service. He supported AIDS patients by giving them food for the body, spirit and soul. He wrote “Sorrow Built a Bridge: Friendship and AIDS” which described his work in a care program at St. Vincent’s Hospital. His activist collaborations with his brother, Philip Berrigan, Elizabeth McAlister, and the Plowshares group were important chapters in his life.
Berrigan was a prolific writer of books on the prophets and award-winning poetry. His book, “To Dwell in Peace” reveals the family roots of activism which is continued by his nieces and nephews. “The Raft Is Not the Shore,” which he co-authored with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, is an instructive conversation about a journey of the soul.
He is known for his play, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine which moved many to question war and acknowledge the law of a higher power over human laws.
To return to the question, anyone can find notable people in the 66 books of the Bible. Since I cannot cover that many, I will write about Augustine, an early Christian theologian.
He made decisions about the doctrine of original sin that shaped Christian beliefs. He taught that God created humans able to sin and not to sin. He thought that when Adam and Eve sinned, they lost their innocence and freedom. After which, they were not able not to sin. Their sin affected future generations. Many Christians believe that we are born with the original sin and guilt. This idea was opposed by Pelagius, who believed that although we may sin, it is a free choice. Look for “Pelagian Controversy” by R. C. Sproul on the Ligonier Ministries website.
Another Augustine idea was the Just War Theory. Early Christians were committed to non-violence. Augustine moved the non-violence approach to the acceptance of war if it could be morally justifiable. To avoid atrocities, to accept responsibilities, and to find workable outcomes might be reasons for war.
Today, many Christians are adherents of the Just War Theory.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, I remembered those with the courage and will to fight for the values of their country. I prayed for the people who will never see their love ones in this life. I prayed fervently for our leaders to seek peaceful solutions to conflicts and weigh the consequences of sending the young to war.
Moral justification should not be a theory or an excuse. Any discussions about war should include cautious deliberations from well-informed individuals who have exhausted all peaceful solutions.