Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Seek Peace not War
Matt.5:38-40 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
Matt.5:43-45 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
ar accomplishes some things. It protects certain countries and their land. It rescues people from dictators. It keeps dictators from expansionism. And it also accomplishes a few residual things like economic issues.
But war never accomplishes anything for the kingdom of God. It is completely at odds with all that Jesus lived and taught. It is not a viable option for those who truly wish to follow in the steps and teachings of Jesus.
Now if we wish to put aside the obvious teachings of Christ when they conflict with national interests, then we must also admit that we do not believe those teachings in the absolute. And this is the position that the overwhelming majority of western believers take without apology or without a viable explanation that relieves the obvious inconsistency. And to be perfectly honest, it is the perspective I once held with clenched teeth.
But if we are to be painfully honest, and if we can strip ourselves from the well worn traditions that we were taught as truth, then perhaps we can take a fresh and uninhibited look at what our Master taught and lived. I mean, isn’t that what the Christian faith is in its purist form? In fact, isn’t that what believing in Jesus actually means? Isn’t the embracing and the obeying of His teachings the definition of what it means to be His disciple?
I will be sixty years old in May of this year, and I am amazed at how many things I embraced without a thorough inspection of the Scriptures. And some things have gone unquestioned within the ranks of evangelicalism. In fact, to question them is often seen as rebellion or at least a sign of spiritual immaturity. Can you imagine such a thing? To question the use of massive violence as a tenant of God’s kingdom is seen as immature? Such is the nature of things when the systems and thoughts of this present world are given a place within the church and within the hearts and minds of God’s people.
I do not suggest that those who make a special place for war are not saved or do not love Jesus. What I am suggesting, from both experience and the open revelation of Scripture, is that their perspective on war is at odds with Christ and His kingdom. And this kind of compromise comes primarily through a melding of spiritual truths and nationalistic allegiances. It is most difficult to see when we have been taught over and over that being patriotic is a Christian virtue. And many men and women of spiritual maturity and who love Christ with all their hearts have been our mentors in this area.
But they are wrong, as was I. I realize it is uncomfortable to suggest such things since they are “settled law” within evangelical circles. But we must never bow to councils or creeds or the doctrinal traditions of men, regardless of their ecclesiastical status. And may I say that being free from this deception results in no small residual spiritual benefits. I say this with humility and meekness, that when the Spirit releases you from any bondage you can experience the air of spiritual freedom. But when such a bondage is as strong and as pervasive as nationalism and war, and when that bondage affects almost everything we do and think, well the freedom of such a deliverance is almost overwhelming.
But to even take a deeper look at these issues will cost you. You will have to delve deep into the Scriptures, and you will have to address the overarching theme as laid out by the Master. And you may not have anyone with whom you can dialogue about your journey since that journey is almost forbidden territory. But this I can promise you: That somewhere along that journey you may experience a startling revelation that awakens your very soul.
And this revelation is not just a different perspective about something. It isn’t just changing your view on an issue. It changes your very life, and if you assess that change against the knowledge of what you used to strongly believe, it should, it must, humble you before your Gracious Lord and Savior. You were wrong, and the Spirit corrected you. Does that not prove His love toward you? Unwarranted love? Unconditional love?
And when and if you are transformed by a fresh illumination of truth, you can never look back with disdain to those who remain where you were. Take it from me, the flesh desires to glory in anything the Spirit does. But we cannot succumb to any of that. The freedom that is found in the Lord Jesus also must free us from condemnation and self righteousness. Many will suggest we hate America, but we reject that indictment. We hate idolatry, not any country. Some will present all kinds of scenarios that are difficult to answer. What about Hitler, etc., are the most common.
I can only answer that God is in control, and that obeying the teachings of Jesus can never receive their validity through the prism of consequences. The outcome must always be placed in faith before His throne. Even an unbeliever like Gandhi leveraged the freedom for an entire nation through a philosophy that seemed doomed to fail. But we are not embracing a philosophy; we are embracing a Lord. And success must always be defined to the degree of dedication and obedience to our Lord. We reject the worldly definitions of success. To the world, the cross was a dismal failure.
The path that follows the nail scarred feet leads against the winds of this world. It is not an easy path, but the rewards are immeasurable. Violence and hatred are not on His path. What the world embraces as normal and reality are almost always at odds with the teachings of the God/man. The path of Jesus is a thrilling journey of humility and power. And His power is not physical; it is spiritual. And many times that spiritual power appears as earthly weakness.
And when we are weak, He is strong through us. But when we are strong in this world, He is weak in us. The entire Christian life is one of contrasts and conundrums. He who is weak is strong; he who loses his life finds it; he who is last is first; he who dies lives forever; he who is crucified is resurrected. It is a most exhilarating journey in which Christ increases and we decrease. To experience the life of Christ living through us is an experience which has no equal.
And it is against this surpassing life experience that we can see, we must see, that there can be no room for compromise and accommodation. War continues to be man’s way of protecting and defending lest he lose any of his earthly freedoms. But what does the world have to offer to a man who is eternally free? To us who have an inheritance reserved in the heavenlies, what on this earth should allure us? When we die to ourselves, what temptation is effective to a corpse?
So let the world contemplate and plan its next war. Ours is the gospel, and our war is with the enemy of our souls. To be free in Christ affords a redeemed soul a freedom that cannot be known on earth by those who seek it here. Watch and pray and seek Him with your whole heart and He will be found of you. Weep over the sins of this world, but do not be partakers of such things. The whole world lies in the wicked one and willingly they follow his ways. But not so we who claim Christ’s name.
Gal.6:16-17 - And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.


Anonymous said...

"But war never accomplishes anything for the kingdom of God."

I think that is such a good point, Rick. Thank you for putting that in there.

If I ever find myself in a conversation about war with a fellow believer, I'll try to remember that point. What could war accomplish? Why would we try to accomplish something for the kingdom of God with the fighting of flesh and blood? Do we not believe in the power of God? And what does God want for us that we could accomplish outside of His will?

Steve said...

Amen, Rick.

War is always justified on the idea that some evils are so great they can ONLY be eradicated by physical violence. It seems a deeply anti-Christian idea.