I lay my head on the pillow, soft cotton against my cheek like the palm of a mother’s hand, but I can’t be soothed. Even when I close my eyes, when the blackness comes, I can still see the fists raised, the tears shed, the blood drops on the ground.
In this noisy, broken world with the news headlines and the neighbors drawing lines and the threats on the horizon, none of us can escape the question: How am I to respond? It seems the easiest answer is to throw the next punch, write the next rant, hold the switchblade of our opinions up to the neck of our opposers so they know we mean business.
This is our instinct, the animal inside us that is about claws and teeth and growling. It’s what awoke in the Apostle Peter when soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear” (John 18:10).
It’s this odd detail in a familiar story, never ever shown on any Sunday School flannel board, that keeps echoing through my mind. I finally pause and consider, What happens when you cut off someone’s ear? I understand in a flash: the person can no longer hear you. This means so much more has been cut off too—communication, understanding, reconciliation, relationship.
I would say, “I would never cut off someone’s ear!” but haven’t I? My swords have been self-righteous words, criticism, judgment, dismissal of those who are different than me—folks I might even be tempted to label “the enemy.” We swing the sword of our words in defense of what we believe is right but there are unintended consequences. This is not the way of the Kingdom. “Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away!’ ” (John 18:11).
I don’t think this means we aren’t to fight the darkness. But I do believe it means we are to understand there’s a time and place and different way to do so. After Peter swung the sword, Jesus still got arrested. He went to trial, stretched out on a cross, rose from the grave. In doing so, He fought (and won) the greatest battle ever. Here’s what stands out to me: None of this involved ear-slashing, shouting or even sneaky finger-pointing.
Instead Jesus fought with love. Not the fluffy, cotton-candy kind. No, the sort that is willing to be laid wide open, to sacrifice, to reach out to even our enemies. Love is still the most powerful weapon in the world.
He also fought with gentleness, which we so often misunderstand. It’s not weakness or fear; it’s strength under control. “A gentle tongue can break a bone” (Proverbs 25:15). “Always be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:2). Don’t be fooled: Gentle is tough as nails.
Jesus, too, chose kindness. Even on the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Being kind is not the same as being “nice.” Niceness is about pleasing people, kindness is about choosing to treat others as creations of God, whether they deserve it or not. “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). Kindness is grit in the trenches with grace.
The clock reads midnight, the darkest part of night, the start of a new day. I whisper a prayer tucked under the sheets, “God, help me be a Fiercehearted woman who lives and loves and battles like You do.” I don’t want to be an ear-slasher. I want, through Jesus, to be a heart-healer, difference-maker, chain-breaker. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does” (2 Corinthians 10:3).
Sisters, in this world we cannot choose whether or not to be at war. But we can choose what kind of warriors we will be. Let’s fight with love and gentleness and kindness.
In other words, let’s fight like Jesus.
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about living fully, loving bravely and fighting differently — you’re invited to join the free Fiercehearted Fall Study. It will begin the same day Fiercehearted releases this Fall!
P.P.S. This post is also up on (in)courage today. If you feel led to leave a comment, I’d love to invite you to visit (in)courage and do so there!