I had a friend. I say “had” because we moved away. If we still lived close I know we would still be close friends. I know if I was ever in Walhounding, Ohio there would be a place at Bobby and Marie Yoder’s table. There would be a generous portion and lively conversation for me and all my family at the Yoder household.
They will probably never read this on the computer because they are Amish. Their bishop is unlikely to clear the use of computers any time soon. That’s good because they are fine people and I wouldn’t ever want them to misunderstand. I like knowing that there is a place in beautiful central Ohio where I could stop for a good meal anytime. We would have years of life to discuss there on the breeze-swept porch.
Back to my story. Amish folks are non-resistant. They do not believe in violence or just war theory. They don’t believe in self-defense. For a while I drove for them on trips to price farm implements or to auctions or intensive grazing seminars. We had some good, respectful dialog about this.
One day I was walking out to Bobby’s dairy barn and I noticed that he had a dog tied there snarling and barking and straining at his chain. Bobby warned me, “You might wanna’ keep clear of that dog. He sometimes bites.”
I thought, “With a large family of little children, why would you keep a mean dog that will bite?” Then it occurred to me. If I was a pacifist I think I would keep a mean dog to. Just to keep people honest. Just in case somebody thought to take advantage of their theology to do them harm a bad-tempered watchdog might come in handy.
My thinking might go something like this; “I’m a pacifist, but my dog here… he’s not. I’m not sure what he is. He might be a Baptist so you might want to keep your distance.”
I’m not a pacifist but the idea sometime appeals to me. I get weary of wars and rumors of wars. I tire of conflict and friction. I find myself thinking, “Why don’t people seem to want to just get along?” I often long for the blessing of peace. I look forward to the time when the government rests on the shoulders of the Prince of Peace and the lion will lie down with the lamb and the little child will lead them without fear of harm.
When I study the Bible I have noticed that quietness is a gift from God, one of his richest blessings. Quietness and peace is something those who don’t know the Lord will ever enjoy. Ultimately peace and quietness will not come until the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus, shoulders the government of the world.
Peace and quietness is my ambition. The longing for it has inspired some of the most beautiful poetry in the world. When I think on it my heart agrees with John Greenleaf Whittier in this:
Drop thy still dew of quietness
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Until that happens I will do my best to get along with everyone. As much as possible I want to live at peace with all men, just like the Scripture says, but until then I can’t promise I won’t keep a mean dog handy just in case.
Riverfront Character Inn
March 21, 2005