Over the last few months, I have spent a lot of time and energy exploring what it means to be an ally. On one hand, as the white father of a black son, I need to understand and embrace these commitments for his sake. On the other hand, as a queer man who is amid very painful discrimination, I know what I want and need from those I love and trust. Because I come at this from the context of my faith as a Christian, something occurred to me lately that has stuck with me. I had been considering examples of allyship in Scripture but kept coming up with examples that were less than compelling. So I put the question aside. Then, something happened: An ally who had been advocating strongly on our behalf backed off when the pressure turned to threats.
I understand why they made this choice and honour their agency to make the choices they feel are best for them. However, it left me feeling devastated and grieved. And in that grief, an example from the Bible came sharply to mind: Peter on the night Jesus was arrested. Let me unpack this a bit.
On the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Peter leaped to Jesus’s defense by drawing his sword and hacking off the ear of one of the men who had come. Now, all things considered, Peter’s response makes sense. He believed (rightly) that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised saviour and legitimate King of Israel. He responded with a passion that most of us would long for allies to embody.
Yet Jesus stops Peter, saying “Put your sword away!”. Peter made a common mistake many allies make: He behaved as though he knew best. Peter should have looked to Jesus for how he wanted to respond rather than assume that he knew what was best. All too often well-intentioned allies charge ahead in their zeal and do more harm than good. Like with Peter, it is often in the heat of the moment. Peter’s passion and desire to be an ally were good and commendable but in practice caused real harm, both the man he struck and to the non-violent intentions of Christ. Jesus knew the kind of resistance He wanted to practice and Peter rushed passed it in an instant.
Things suddenly shifted for Peter. With Jesus arrested and His followers scattered, Peter found himself largely alone facing what seemed a doomed situation. Jesus stood accused and reviled with little to no…