Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What Ancient Kingdoms Can Teach Us About Our Ideological Battles

When the nation of Israel was misbehaving to the degree that God allowed them to be conquered by the Assyrians, there was a graciousness extended to a defeated foe that our modern day ideologies know little of.

The Assyrians did indeed conquer through battle. The blood and violence and loss of life were high. But once the victory was won, the ancient word had another way of dealing with the aftermath. The captive Israelites were not obliterated, put into prison camps or turned into slaves – at least not in the way that we remember slavery in the West.

They were often allowed to live together in community, worshiping as they had before, and

allowed to engage in the commerce of the conquering nation. They did not have to adapt the conquering culture or abandon their identity. The ancient world knew that imposing a culture on a people with no heart for that culture was a guarantee of rebellion and continued strife.

Modern ideological warriors offer no such grace. When we defeat a foe, their statues come 
down, symbols are destroyed, language is disallowed, and conformity to the winning cultural standards is demanded. We seem to think that even if a person’s heart is not changed, their behavior must be. In the ancient world, this would have been seen as self-defeating oppression. Today, we inexplicably call it progress. 

So for followers of Jesus who demand that others behave in accord with the standards of your faith, and get shocked, angry and offended when they don’t, try to catch up with the ancients. The days of beating your enemy with a club – actual, philosophical or theological – are so 5 millennia ago.

May you find grace to accept the ideas of others without being threatened or offended, knowing that you need the very same kind of grace before Almighty God.

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