God’s War on Terror

Standard

God’s War on Terror

Deuteronomy 7:17–26

17 If you say to yourself, “These nations are more numerous than I; how can I dispossess them?” 18 do not be afraid of them. Just remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out. The LORD your God will do the same to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send the pestilence against them, until even the survivors and the fugitives are destroyed. 21 Have no dread of them, for the LORD your God, who is present with you, is a great and awesome God. 22 The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to make a quick end of them, otherwise the wild animals would become too numerous for you. 23 But the LORD your God will give them over to you, and throw them into great panic, until they are destroyed. 24 He will hand their kings over to you and you shall blot out their name from under heaven; no one will be able to stand against you, until you have destroyed them. 25 The images of their gods you shall burn with fire. Do not covet the silver or the gold that is on them and take it for yourself, because you could be ensnared by it; for it is abhorrent to the LORD your God. 26 Do not bring an abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be set apart for destruction like it. You must utterly detest and abhor it, for it is set apart for destruction.

-The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Dt 7:17–26). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The Old Testament can be tricky for us to interpret and apply as Christians. It is hard to know which laws were canceled (or fulfilled) for us by Christ’s sacrificial death. It is often difficult to decipher which prophecies Jesus already fulfilled and which ones have yet to come. Here is a really quick over-generalized perspective on how to interpret these books:

  1. Genesis-Deuteronomy: The Torah, the Law of Israel was written like a combination of national history and constitution given to them by God. If you are not part of that people, and perhaps part of that land in the Middle East, these laws will not automatically apply to you. However, there is much to be learned about the nature of God and people in general, and you will not find a better example of what God’s desires for a holy nation are than within these stories and commandments.
  2. Joshua—Esther: These books are largely historical material about the rise and fall of Israel as a nation. Again, quite instructive about God’s character and the good and bad lessons we can learn from reading about another nation’s experience trying to be faithful to God, but not everything can be taken as directly applicable to ourselves.
  3. Job-Song of Solomon: It’s been debated whether Job is a historical book or not, but either way, it serves as an excellent example of how God’s people deal with suffering. Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes also deal with suffering, and many other parts of the human condition, but in the form of prayer or short teachings. Song of Solomon is a strange book compared to other biblical examples. It is a love poem that some have used as an example of God’s love for His people. For me personally, it may be the hardest book in the Bible to preach and teach well.
  4. The rest of the Old Testament, Isaiah-Malachi, are the prophets. These are collections of teachings by God’s messengers to the people of Israel, and occasionally their gentile neighbors, during the history of their nation and following their fall as they were taken into captivity. Their message could probably all be summarized as “Put your hope in God, not in yourselves and your own strength.” That is a message we can apply directly. The rest needs to be worked through contextually.

For more detailed info, check out some of these books

So, if you take all this into consideration when reading the passage above from Deuteronomy, I think we can understand this as a warning to God’s people (Israel), not to be led by fear, rather than a warning to everyone else, not to mess with Israel. It also says specifically that God would do the clearing ahead “little by little”, not that the people were to rush in and conquer everything overnight. Indeed, they would not be destroyed with weapons of war, but by their own fear and panic.

Moreover, this passage begins with a call to remember Egypt and the work God did there. The Hebrew people did not fight a war with Egypt, God did. Not only were the people kept out of it, but God gave the Egyptian leader(s) 10 chances to simply let their Hebrew slaves go to avoid any causalities. Each opportunity was met with miraculous signs. In the end, it was Pharaoh’s own stubbornness in fighting against God that led to his downfall and the release of the Hebrew people.

Does that mean we should never fight or defend ourselves? Probably not. But you won’t find justification for violence here unless it is in regard to cleaning out the idolatry from our own lives. That is one of the few things God appears to have little patience for in the Old Testament.

What enemies cause you fear?

What things in life to you fear to give up?

When should I fight? Part 3

Standard

If you have made it past your anger and have taken an honest look at your own values and there is still conflict that is unresolved, it may be time to fight.

My experience of the world has been that it pulls us in one of two directions: fight or flight. In higher functioning circles these terms might be renamed aggressive persuasion and compromise, but they come from the same semantic and psychological place. Either we fight for what we want, or we give it up and live to fight another day. I am not, and have never really been a fan of compromise… it has always felt like everyone losing in practice rather than the kind of middle ground for which it is usually advertised. Nor am I quick to go to war (although I have been quick to anger at times). You can probably tell just from the fact that it has taken me 3 posts of asking when to fight before finally getting to the fighting part.

So here we are at the fight. Our conscience is clear, we know what we want and we are not just having an emotional reaction. We have communicated what we want clearly and there is still no change coming on our behalf. What now? Now we just have one final question to answer for ourselves.

What are we willing to pay to get our way?

That is a very important question, because for every cause, right, wrong, or indifferent, their is a cost. When fights occur, everybody loses something. This may be why I somehow hold some tendencies toward negotiation over violence, but dislike compromise. Fighting is costly, and if we are to enter that endeavor, we will pay the price whether we want to or not. Violence does not take IOU’s.

Whether the matter is handled in court, taking up court costs and our time, or through violence, taking the blood of ourselves and perhaps our friends and family as well, the bill will come to us and we will pay. It is as Ghandi says:

And, depending upon the relationship we have, or did have, with those we are fighting, their demise may end up hurting us and our family as well.

The most celebrated political leaders of the last century have largely held non-violent views. The reason for that is that violence and war is costly, and there are often more efficient ways to get things done. It is only when these other options ends that there may be need for fighting. To enter the fight is to admit defeat in the creative endeavor to solve a problem. Our best and brightest did not have to do that often.

I think this is why Jesus did not teach his disciples how to fight. He taught them how to live, love, and to sacrifice their lives for something worthy. He taught:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:43–48

So, if your loss of time, energy, money, health, and perhaps your life will do more good for the world and the things you hold dear, then by all means, fight on. But if you are expecting to enjoy the fruits of your labor (have your cake and eat it too), then you may want to keep thinking, keep dreaming, keep praying for another kind of resolution.