I was thinking. Bad idea.
Anywho, I was on the elliptical combo upstairs combo Iron Maiden at the Y this morning listening to some really loud tunes. Why put myself through that? I don’t want to be obese. That’s not where I’m going though. Like most fitness facilities there are TV’s all over the place. There are six at my Y. As I was watching, the story of the Jordanian pilot being burned alive was on every single screen. As each screen flashed between the pundits, talking heads, and scenes of a man being burned alive…I was hit with a wave of absolute sorrow.
I mean, what kind of place are we in that we sit and are so used to watching death and violence that the TODAY show is nonchalantly watching someone’s son, father, or grand kid burned a live in a cage? And then I looked around the gym to see who else would be outraged by this…surely someone else would be fuming and disgusted like me.
People laughing, people on Facebook, people talking about their kids, people not paying attention, people starting at the screens but with the “elevator not going to the top” look.
I wanted to scream! I wanted to say, “CAN’T YOU PEOPLE SEE THAT SOMEONE JUST DIED ON LIVE TV? AREN’T YOU SHOCKED? AREN’T YOU INDIGNANT?” I didn’t do that, however, because I thought that if I did I’d get taken to the psych ward for an “eval.” That’s when it hit me like a Mack truck: It’s not that people aren’t paying attention – it’s that we’re conditioned to this sort of thing – it’s on 24/7. Killings, beheading videos, natural disasters, drone strikes, terror attacks, school shootings, race riots, hate crimes, murder, beatings, genocide…all broadcast around the globe in all of media’s various forms and platforms to be consumed constantly by a population who is so desensitized to violence and war that it has become a trivial afterthought.
See the problem?
I’m part of the generation that has grown up with televised war every day since 2001. We’ve been told it’s for the “greater good” and that we have to kill the bad guys before they kill us. We’ve grown up beings spoon fed the “Just War” theology, and we’ve seen the rise of something very sinister. Deistic Nationalism. That’s what I’ll call it anyways. It’s the idea that God is draped in an *insert country here* flag. I am an American so the American flag. It’s the idea that God is on our side. It’s the idea that God is the ultimate General commanding the battle from on high. It’s the belief that we will succeed because God wants us to do this.
Can I…just…say something crazy (Using Anna from Frozen)?
What if that’s not true? What if God isn’t supportive of that? What if God isn’t on the side of violence and war? What if God doesn’t sanction “Just War” but instead it grieves His heart that we still solve things by lobbing bombs at one another? What if we’re wrong?
It bears asking, doesn’t it? I mean, if we’re trying to follow Jesus’ life and example, if we hold His word in highest esteem, if we believe what we read, then we HAVE to ask those questions. It’s unavoidable. I’m not meaning to isolate or aggravate a part of my audience, but I wonder if, as the early Christians some times fell into (6 of the 7 churches in Revelations 2-3) Emperor Worship. Another name for it is Nationalism.
Let’s look at what Jesus says:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. (Matthew 5:1-22, ESV)
Jesus ups the ante here, not by making an impossible commandment, but showing the root of it all – the Heart. Murder starts in your heart. Hate, envy, jealousy, greed, anger…all of these lead to murder. Yes, it IS that big of a deal! Keep going:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42, ESV)
Jesus is going back to the Law here (Exodus 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). The prevailing teaching that was throughout the land was “Do unto others as they did to you or someone you care about.” That fit right into Israels hatred for the Roman Empire and the desire to slaughter them out of existence for being occupiers. However, Jesus says that was NEVER the intention of the Law, so let’s rectify this now – when violence and injustice are perpetrated against you or someone you love, you don’t have the authority to get even. If you follow Jesus, revenge is never an option. Vengeance belongs to God, not you. It is not your duty, your right, or in your sphere of existence to dole out justice, because, frankly, you’d be horrible at it, right? I’d be really bad. We’d glass entire continents in anger some days if we’re honest, right. This is hard stuff, but keep going:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-47, ESV)
Jesus takes it even further here. Not only are you not to seek revenge and strike back, but He makes it extremely intimate – pray for the well-being of the person who hates you. Did you catch that? I mean, we have trouble praying when someone cuts us off in traffic…how can we pray for someone who does violence or injustice to someone we love? Jesus begins to wrap it up by saying, “If you’re loving only people who are nice and love you back, is it really love or is it a partnership for what you can give and get from the other party?”
I’m no scholar, but that’s pretty clear. Any brief survey of Church history will reveal that this is not only what the first Christians believed, but also what they died to show. That violence, war, and oppression were not means to bring peace, but rather only serve to keep the vicious cycle turning that was put in motion when Cain killed Abel.
When Jesus is confronted by Pontius Pilate He says something so profound that it will shake the very core of the world. Pilate asks Jesus if He is a king…and here is Jesus reply:
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:33-37, ESV)
DON’T. MISS. THIS. Jesus’ Kingdom isn’t one that flexes its trillion dollar military budget, or one that appeals to good citizenship and social responsibility. No. It’s not one that can be won through violence or conquest – Jesus says that right here…it can’t be bought with bullets, bombs, or research and development. It can only be GIVEN by the Son of God and preserved entirely by Him who is so far above the affairs of governments, courts, and war.
I believe that God is not opposed to government or anything like that, but God is opposed to Empire. He is opposed to vast military industrial complexes that deal death to detractors at a moments notice. He is opposed to a people who return evil for evil. He is grieved when His children put more faith in the Empire than in Him. I believe God weeps when in the name of “War on Terror” we level a village and kill innocent people just to get one person. I believe that God is there holding those people, crying with the mothers and fathers holding a lifeless body. I believe God holds those brave men and women who are killed by a roadside bomb as there life drains away. I also believe He holds those who were in combat close when they go through the incredible struggle of transitioning back into civilian life. I believe God hates violence and war. I believe God, like us, longs for the day:
3 Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. 5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:3-5, ESV)
I cry out for that too – I mean, after all, it is God’s desire, so shouldn’t it be ours? Just thinking.