I horridly stared at my bathroom floor as hundreds of ants marched their merry way back and forth across, creating a steady stream from one corner to the next. In years past, I had some trouble with these small critters, as when the weather warms up, they tend to emerge. However, nothing prepared me for what now lay before me.
I spent some time brainstorming a solution. We have a basic rule in our house, where nothing is allowed to die. We tend to remove mice and insects from our home and relocate them outside or down the street. Yet, an infestation was another issue. I thought about sweeping them all up, but I knew that they would either just return or that there were just more where these came from. (Most likely, both scenarios were probable.) So, I began to consider instant extermination, immediately killing hundreds of ants and betraying our household rule.
However, I reconsidered and decided on a different approach. I spent time examining their traffic pattern and noticed that they were coming in and out of a small hole at the base of the bathtub. I took some clay and filled the hole, as hundreds of confused ants ran roughshod. When I returned a few hours later, they had all left on their own and haven’t returned since. From a very small action of non-violence and patience came great change.
When faced with difficult and dire situations, as a society we don’t always stop and think of how to respond in a slow but non-violent way. Governments tend to find a bigger bomb, bigger guns, or additional soldiers, attempting to overpower the enemy through swift violence and intimidation. The Dalai Lama, the wise Buddhist leader of Tibet and a strong proponent of non-violence, when faced with intimidation from China to rejoin their republic, was threatened with violent means. Faced with a moral dilemma of how to respond, many of his people desired him to rise up and fight off the militia, but the Dalai Lama knew that his people were outnumbered and would most likely be slaughtered. Instead, he adopted a stance of patience, understanding, and non-violence, and has managed to maintain it for the past 60 years. He has been quoted as saying, “Through violence, you may ‘solve’ one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.” As such, he has been able to preserve his people, stand his ground on his beliefs, and avoid a mass genocide.
Responding with violence is quick and easy, whereas non-violence takes great patience and time, as seen through the Dalai Lama’s example. Similarly, Christ’s example leading up to and on the cross reflects that non-violent and patient approach. When Christ was arrested, Simon Peter struck the high priest with his sword, cutting off the priest’s ear. Christ quickly admonished him: “Put your sword back in its place…for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26.52). Throughout His trial, Christ refused to fight back. On the cross, Christ could have called down all manner of angels and struck down everyone, saving Himself, but he chose not to. Through His patient and non-violent example, He conquered death, saving us all from condemnation.
In my classroom, I have found that when my students are loud and rowdy, if I respond by being louder than they are, it only adds to the chaos, with me shouting them into submission. It becomes a power struggle. However, if I am silent and wait patiently for them, they quiet themselves down and the wild spirit of chaos is eliminated from the room. Struggle does not exist. If we take time to respond to strife and chaos through choices that reflect patience, quiet, and peace, we achieve a far greater result than responding with our basest instincts, many of which are rooted in our sinful nature. This week, when you find the desire to engage and fight back, choose disengagement and patience, and you will find that the fruit it produces will bring you, and those around you, peace. Amen.