Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Would Jesus Do About Syria?

What would Jesus say about Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, North Korea, Russia?  If the Bible is any indication, not much.  It could be that he would say nothing at all. 

When Rome was oppressing the people of Galilee, Samaria, the Decapolis, Batanea and Perea, where so many Jews lived, Jesus said nothing about Rome.  He had plenty to say to the religious leaders who were holding hands and playing nice with Rome so that those same religious leaders could remain in power, unchallenged. 

Jesus seemed to move through his life and ministry sublimely indifferent to what governing powers did, although he took serious jabs at their character.  But he was not interested in the little pretend kingdoms of this world, or the religious leaders who wanted to play house with them.  He knew that people were looking for a different kind of kingdom and a different kind of king.

So what I think Jesus would say about international turmoil is this, and he would say it to the church: "Go into all these nations showing them mercy and grace in my name.  Care for their widows and orphans.  Heal their wounds and comfort them in their affliction.  Pray for them and love them, even if they persecute you.  Visit them in their prisons.  Consider them more important than yourselves.  Outdo everyone in showing them honor.  Teach them about me, the forgiveness of sins, the way to abundant living, and let them know you are my followers by loving them with no strings attached."

We come back with, "This is non-responsive, Jesus!  Should we bomb them, impose economic sanctions, send in troops, or stay out and pretend their suffering is not our concern?"  And then Jesus is strangely silent. 

Now, many of his modern day followers are quite vocal.  They seem to know exactly what he would do and why he would do it.  And their solutions usually line up with one political party or the other.  Funny (and by "funny" I mean "tragic") how that is so consistently true.  Anyway, if they think they know what Jesus would say or do, good for them. 

But I think the beauty and brilliance of Jesus was his single-minded focus on building the Kingdom of God so that it might one day displace the little pretend kingdoms of this world, many of which are sadly propped up by their lip-syncing groupies in the religious community.  I guess that much has not changed since the days of Jesus.

So what would Jesus say?  Something like "love your neighbor as yourself" is my guess.  Let's go out and do the same.  If enough of us will, and give the full devotion of our lives to it, then maybe the next generation will not have to ask about whether Jesus would endorse a war or not.  

Is this a cop out?  I don't think so.  Insisting on making Jesus into either a 21st century pacifist or war hawk while ignoring the transformative, simple way of life he taught and lived, THAT seems like the cop-out.  

Okay, I have made my case.  Here is my problem.  I have seen the pictures of children killed by serine gas.  I have seen the video footage of people still alive and poisoned by this gas - their bodies responding in agony as their nervous systems are short-circuited.  And I cannot imagine having the ability to stop this, and then not stopping it. I expect evil people to do evil.  But good people who do not stop evil when they can? - unconscionable!   And when I see those images, and hear the cries of the innocent loved ones, everything I feel in my heart and soul completely wrecks and undoes all the words I have laid out above.  I no longer want to stay focused on grace and love and healing and sacrifice.  I want someone to pay for what has been done and what I've seen.  And I believe I can make the case that doing so is actually an act of love.  In some cases, I admit, it really is.  Violence against the evil to end their violence against the innocent is not a problem for me.  And in all of this, all I can think to say is Lord, have mercy.

So what stance should a follower of Jesus take on this one?  Here is my answer.  I have no idea.  

You may say, "But you are a pastor.  You're supposed to have an answer."  Sorry.  Maybe another pastor will be a little closer to omniscience than I seem to be and he or she can tell you what to believe.  So go read his or her blog.  And maybe one day, I'll have a better answer than I do today.  But for now, I just don't know.  I hate that answer, but it's the only one I can come up with.  You pray for me, and I will pray for you.  And let's all pray for Syria.

As we pray for them and each other, may we find the courage to meet evil with grace.  May we not get sucked into thinking that the wannabe kingdoms of this earth, built and controlled by people who are broken and flawed, are the things that ultimately matter.  May we keep our eyes on the prize of the upward call of Jesus Christ on our lives, to live as he lived, and love as he did with a relentless and reckless love.  And may our wrecked and tortured souls find comfort in knowing that in doing this, what we do may one day mean fewer wrecked and tortured souls.

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