November 17, 2015
I am really wanting to resist the temptation to think about--and especially to write about--current events, especially anything that has to do with religious fights and wars. I'm interested in different viewpoints, but a lot of people sure are determined that their's is the only right one. I don't know, Lord. I just don't know.
"I will trust in the Lord." I guess so. No point in trusting in the wild and crazy ideas of people that they cling to and defend and knock others for disagreeing with. On the other hand, it is obviously true that I find some ideas "crazy and wild" ... but it is people's convictions that they are right 100%--and that I am "liberal," at least in their viewpoint ... all "liberals" are apparently evil, even those who would not particularly consider themselves "liberal" ... apparently if you aren't in the American Republican or Canadian Conservative camps, you are "liberal." And foolish. And, I sense, your Christianity is very suspect. Oh well, I have to admit I find their Christianity suspect, too ... or at least awfully wrapped up with the wealth-and-power-brokers of the State, and difficult to reconcile with what I know of You from the Bible.
Question: How do we reconcile the Old Testament God of wars and judgment and the Jewish theocratic state, with Jesus' message in the New Testament ... and Paul's messages which love Jesus but which at the same time (to me, anyway) seem pretty strongly influenced by his Pharisaic background (and okay, maybe by the "reality" in which he lived. Is it "unrealistic" to expect/even just try to follow Jesus' teaching in a world of war, war, war, and worship of empire, wealth, power, the Almighty Dollar?
Is it unrealistic to want to believe that You really do want us to "turn the other cheek" and submit to "persecution for righteousness sake"? To want to just live quietly in this world, to live out Your love the best we can day by day, and be ready to "give a reason" for why we live that way--and accept any persecution that comes from that?
I'm finding myself more "fought against" by believers than by non-believers. I mean, some of the latter might think I'm crazy ... but the former see me as wrong ... maybe even as a traitor and/or non-believer.
I really think I'm trying to seek and find You and Your way--and I'm even speaking out Your name more these days (thank You for helping me, for giving me courage ...). Well, maybe that's why I am making others angry. I say we need to listen to each other (and yes, it is hard), but I to some degree being brought back a bit closer to the God "I once believed in" but also finding more of You that I didn't know back then...
"Risen Lord, teach us to trust the power of your cross."
In Psalm 78, when the people railed against God, even after all the things he'd just done for them, because they decided they wanted bread and meat: "When the LORD heard this, he was full of wrath: a fire was kindled against Jacob, and his anger mounted against Israel; for they had no faith in God: nor did they put their trust in his saving power."
See--that's what worries me especially about the current situation. Are Christians putting their trust in God's saving power (including, I guess, "repenting in sack cloth and ashes," and really praying, and doing "the kind of fasting which God has chosen," and "keeping the Sabbath holy," and "being joyful in persecution," and "acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God" ... Goodness knows, I myself really fall short in those areas ... Or are they "trusting in horses and chariots"?
"Risen Lord, teach us to trust the power of your cross."
Are we seeking to be part of God's heavenly kingdom, or are we focused too much on earthly kingdoms and powers, and trying to create a "theocratic" kingdom on earth--with ourselves in charge?
Are we really willing, even desiring--as the early believers were--to follow "the way of Your cross"? It's not an easy, pleasant, blessed way. We are in a world opposed to You. We are to remember to be "aliens" just passing through--in this world but not of it. When we take up the weapons of this world, are we actually deserting Your kingdom? Do we not believe that You are in control and that You are strong enough to fulfill Your eternal purposes (including for Israel) in Your time and ways? Do we really think that by fighting evil "with the sword" as Peter tried to do in Gethsemane, we are somehow helping You set up Your kingdom on earth? Aren't we thus putting ourselves in a place where You have to say to us, "Get behind me, Satan"? Don't we believe that You can easily send down legions of angels, if You wanted to ... but to accept that until the "fulness of time, of judgment" it is not Your way? Don't we believe in "Your will be done"? Don't we believe that You love all the world, and that in Your mercy, love, kindness, compassion, You allow mankind time to choose You--or not choose You?
If a Hindu like Ghandi can model his life on Your "Sermon on the Mount" and set an example that led to the end of apartheid systems in the USA and South Africa, why can't we as Christian believers not only follow Your teaching but truly believe that You are God, and that we can trust You to work it all out in Your time--and meanwhile trust You to uphold us with Your Spirit, even if it means we carry a heavy cross, even unto martyrdom, death?
Why are we apparently so convinced that if we believe in You, our earthly lives should be all beds of roses? Don't we realized that rose gardens look pretty on the surface, but in reality they are full of thorns? Like the thorns You wore on Your head ... and that we are to be prepared to wear also if we follow You?
Maybe the thorns and the cross are what we really, truly need. Maybe all these "terrible events" and persecution, murder, mayhem are really gifts from You to shake people out of their comfort and aparthy and selfishness and "rose-tinted-glasses-life, and really turn to You because there is no other alternative to the evil the world dishes up. Maybe our society's problem is that life has been too pleasant for too long. And we think it is because "You have blessed us" and even that somehow "we deserve a pleasant life because we're a Christian nation." But do we actually deserve it? Or is it because of Your unmerited mercy and grace? And if it is Your mercy and grace, why do we not appreciate it? Why do we not truly follow You? Why do we take up with the world's "pleasures" (and wars...) and act so surprised when things start falling apart--and when "those other false religions" see us as the epitome of evil? Because we HAVE slipped into the world's ways. We have.
And how can we even think that fighting the world's ways with the world's weapons and methods is somehow going to "win the victory" for God's kingdom? It is so wrong...
Again... "Rise Lord, teach us to trust the power of Your cross."
"Our Father who art in heaven ... thy kingdom come, thy will be done ... forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us ... deliver us from evil ... thinke is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever."
How can we be expected to be forgiven when we refuse to forgive?
How can we realize that Your kingdom is an eternal kingdom, not a kingdom of this earth? And that our "deliverance from evil" is in terms of Your kingdom, which is not of this earth? When will we stop aligning ourselves with earthly power structures, and start acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly?
If we do not make a huge about-turn, I fear we will richly deserve all the evil the world can throw against us--and we will deserve Your judgment.
Death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal: "Isn't it odd that Christendom ... claims to pray to and adore a being who was a prisoner of Roman power, an inmate of the empire's death row. That the one it considers a personification of the Creator of the Universe was tortured, humiliated, beaten and crucified on a barren scrap of land on the imperial periphery, at Golgotha, the place of the skull. That the majority of its adherents strenuously support the state's execution of ... the condemned [and, dare I say, the state war machine's execution of all those who dare follow another way, or are simply innocent people caught up in the earthly power struggles we choose to call "just war" (njh)]--claim to be followers of the fettered, spat-upon, naked God?"
"Lord, remind us that a servant is no greater than the Master."