Monday, October 27, 2008

Following Jesus into War

This past Sunday I ventured into the topic of war as a follower of Jesus. If you want to hear the message, which includes a FaithStory from a couple whose son is serving in Iraqa and a reading from a letter of a soldier who fought in WWII explaining his view on the war, go here.

My premise was that Jesus introduced the "reign of God," in an occupied country who tried to liberate itself several times from its oppressor. From Judas ben Mattathias in 167 BCE to Judas of Galilee in 6 CE, efforts to liberate Israel were part of Israel's fabric of life. Jesus led in this context of war and conflict.

Jesus led the movement of God with various options to establish an earthly kingdom: the Zealots , who wanted to overthrow the occupying Romans and were in the infant stages of the movement; the Herodians, who sympathized with the Romans and who feared Jesus' movement (Mark 3:6); and the religious leaders, who had developed a symbiotic relationship with their oppressors to ensure the continuation of their religious practices and institutions. Yet, he never connected his movement with any military or political option. He did not come to join any existing movement. He came to establish a new creation in the hearts of people.

Jesus treated traitors, insurgents, and enemy soldiers the same. He even put two of them in his closest circle of followers; Matthew, the tax collector and Simon, the Zealot. (I wish I could have been around for some of the camp fire discussions/debates they had! How did a traitor and insurgent get along in the same group except under the "reign of God" led by Jesus?)

I concluded that no matter our political positions about the wars of the United States or any other country, as "citizens of heaven" we are to serve all people like Jesus. The "reign of God" moves forward by the love and service of its citizens. Whether the country of our citizenship is the aggressor or the invaded, wherever there is a follower of Jesus there is hope the love of God will reign in the hearts of all people.

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