23. Peace meal

Ted Grimsrud—Purpose vol. 45, no. 7 (July 2012), p. 28.

Ironically, my embrace of pacifism as a young adult led me into one of the worst conflicts of my life.

When I was in college in the mid-1970s, I dove headlong into a small, non-denominational house church. My time in that congregation shaped my life—I met my wife Kathleen, I discovered my gifts in pastoral ministry and theological reflection, I made numerous lifelong friends, I had a lot of fun, and, not least, I first encountered Jesus’ message of peace.

This house church had been founded several years earlier with the merger of two Bible study groups. One of the founding pastors (Doug) remained in leadership as the church grew, but shortly before I began attending he left for a few years to attend seminary.

While he was gone, I joined with several friends to present, with enthusiasm, our freshly discovered peace theology. Not surprisingly, since this theology was totally new in this context (most of the church members came from Baptist or similar evangelical [and patriotic] backgrounds), numerous people were troubled. They called upon Doug to bring a word of “sanity” to the situation, so he returned for several public disputation with us pacifists.

Then, after finishing his seminary work, Doug moved back and returned to his pastoral role. The tensions were immense. I had emerged as kind of the spokesperson for the pacifist faction. Doug and I could barely speak to each other.

Finally, almost in desperation, two other church leaders came up with an idea that the four of us go on a camping trip together. Doug and I each were good friends with the other two guys, so the initial hours of our outing was spent the two guys in the middle joking around in each direction—but Doug and I mostly avoided direct interaction. But then we had to sit down and eat together. Each of us prepared meals for the group, and around the table the joking gradually included everyone—and focused on each of our ineptness as “chefs.”

By the end of the trip, Doug and I had become friends. We never were exactly buddies, but the rest of our time together we got along, and just a couple of years ago we had a warm reunion. It wasn’t exactly good food that drew us together so much as sharing mediocre food. But our meals did become genuine “peace meals.”

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