Recently, a friend helped my wife and me settle a domestic dispute about a book “we” own that we both thought we bought. Although we share our books anyway, in this case we both believed we were the rightful owner of the book. Determined to prove I was right, and looking for evidence, I stood my ground.
As I shared my story and recollection of events with this friend, the friend simply looked at me and said, “Well, pastor, you can be right or you can live in peace.”
I smiled and said, “Well, then, I’ll live in peace.”
Worldwide this month, the peace has been disturbed. Criminal and police shootings in Miami and Tucson; upheavals in Egypt over democratization and the demand for President Mubarak to leave office; conflicts between the mayor of the city of Miami and its chief of police; political and religious leaders over the causes of the shootings; and, recently, conflict between the chief of police and the state attorney.
Many people believe they own the book on what’s right. Everywhere it seems the view is “the book” belongs to me. The opposition is either absent-minded (like me), ignorant, misguided, evil or flat-out wrong. In my opinion, what’s needed in Miami and Cairo and the world as a whole is a willingness to just want to live in peace. In other words, we need genuine disciples of Jesus.
Too many of us don’t use what we learned in church in the world and we don’t put Christ’s principles to work. Jesus called His first disciples saying, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” Matthew 4:19. But we are all to be fishermen of men. Often our view of right and wrong makes it hard for us to work with others. Christ’s teaching on discipleship provides the answer. Like fishing, it’s all about the right time, the right place and the right fisherman.
Peter, Andrew, James and John were all fishermen and, according to Matthew 4:22, they left fishing to become “fishers of men.”
They were not clergy or priests, not scholars, not rich, not influential, not of elite social backgrounds. They were simple fishermen.
It is interesting also that Christ’s first four disciples were actually blood brothers. Was that because He wanted to base His ministry on blood or focus our attention on the need for us to be brothers and love one another?
Now is not the time to fight over the book; it’s time to listen and to love one another. It’s not the time to fire off another round of bullets. We need peace in order for the truth to surface about the best approach to making our communities safe.
Worldwide, people are dying of gunshots. Why in the world would anyone propose a law giving everybody a gun? I agree with last week’s South Florida Times editorial column, headed, Time to End This Madness. All people must be made to understand one another in order to live in peace. “You can be right or you can live in peace.”
So why did Christ use fishermen? Let’s look at the traits of good fishermen. Fishermen must be patient; we too need to be patient with one another. Fishermen must have perseverance; we too need to persevere in listening to one another. Fishermen must have courage; and we too must take courage and help the police to protect the streets.
Fishermen must also have good timing in order to reel in the fish. They must use the right bait and keep peaceful and calm while fishing. Finally, fishermen must keep out of sight, to avoid frightening off fish. Therefore, in each of us Christ only should be seen.
In the end, as my friend said to me, “You can be right or you can live in peace.” The book my wife and I had our dispute over we are sharing. It is well read and well used. And the lesson my friend taught me has helped me create a permanent sense of peace in my life and in my home.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami. To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.