Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Which "Son of God" are you following?

I struggle as I read the Beatitudes, specifically Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." My mind instantly moves to thoughts of Hitler, or Pol Pot, the Interahamwe, or Mao Tsedong. Shouldn't the genocides perpetuated by these men be stopped, even through violence? One of the greatest theologians of the 20th century wrestled with this same question. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pacifist throughout all of his preaching and writing was involved and eventually executed for a failed assassination attempt on Hitler. Was violence against injustice best for the greater good? Is it what God would have wanted?

Malachi 3:6 says "For I am the LORD, I do not change." Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." And James 1:17 says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." I believe this, God is the same yesterday, today and forever, but how can I reconcile this with the following scriptures:
"When the Lord your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy." Deut. 7:2

". . . in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them . . . as the LORD your God has commanded you." Deut. 20:16-17

"Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'" 1 Sam. 15:2
God is the Lion. Many recognize that the above scriptures are in judgement of those nations who defiled the one true God, and Jesus doesn't avoid the topic of judgement either. In Luke 10:13-15 Jesus pronounces judgement for the cities who did not recognize and repent. Every time Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven he is implying judgement, the fact that most will not meet a happy fate, some will die horrible deaths, or worse, be cast into the depths of hades.

Jesus however, is the Lamb. Eventually every living thing will worship this Lamb:
"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!" Rev. 5:12
John the Baptist recognized the Lamb: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29

The prophet Isaiah describes how this peaceful Lamb will be sacrificed for our sins:
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)
And He didn't strike back either, or at least in a way we would have thought. He practiced what he preached from the Sermon on the Mount:
"Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Matt. 5:39

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Luke 6:27-28
So God is both the Lion and the Lamb. Full of both violence and peace. This is a concept I cannot fully understand, and that is OK (His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9)).

An article in the Simple Way publication Conspire shed some new light on this as I read it earlier this week. The article was titled No Shortage of Messiahs and discussed the peaceful revolution of the true Messiah Jesus Christ. The article recounts the story of the hours leading up to Jesus' death, with some details that my Christian upbringing left out. There were 4 men waiting to be executed as "political insurrectionists." Jesus was accused of calling himself the Son of God, the 3 others are called "thieves" in English, but "the Greek word lestes was a term used by Rome for military revolutionaries." These men were Jewish revolutionaries, who, much like Robin Hood were bandits who had been killing and stealing from the oppressive Roman empire. One eventually rejects Jesus, the other accepts Him, but the third, Barabbas, is put beside Jesus of Nazareth for the people to choose. One will be released, one will be executed.
"There is a profound irony in that moment: The Gospels speak of Jesus as the son of God, or the "son of Abba." In Hebrew this would be bar Abbas. Barabbas. That's right: Two sons of God, presented to the people. Both on trial on the same day for the same crime. They not only share names, but they made similar claims: Both claimed to be the Christ, the messiah, the chosen one who would lead Israel out of bondage, the son of the liberating God whose judgement was imminent and whose reign would be established. And Rome reckoned both of them to be dangerous."
Ultimately, we have the same choice: which son of God will we choose? One that uses redemptive violence to achieve an earthly goal of peace. Or one that doesn't make sense to us, one that uses ways and means that are not compatible with our ways and our thoughts, and achieves a peace that is beyond our comprehension and probably out of our view.

Brennan Manning puts it this way in his book The Signature of Jesus:
Calling peacemakers "bleeding hearts," "do-gooders," and "good Samaritans" with a tone of condescension indicates an unacknowledged alienation from the gospel. When will Christians be honest enough to admit that they don't really believe in Jesus Christ? That the Nazarene carpenter must be dismissed as a romantic visionary, a starry-eyed reformer hopelessly out of touch with the "real" world of domination, aggression, and power?
When we embrace just war theology and redemptive violence as the only way to achieve peace, are we choosing Barabbas over Jesus?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sorry people. . .

I don't know how many people really look at this blog, but to those 3 people out there who are waiting for another post, I am working on one. We have been relaxing and waiting on the Lord to reveal things as we dive into our next phase of ministry. I have plenty of thoughts, just nothing that I have felt like writing down lately. They are coming though. . . .