Posts tagged ‘Peace’

Tackling Terrorism

Credit:  Christian Science Monitor

Credit: Christian Science Monitor

First it was a chocolatier in Australia. Then it was a school in Pakistan. Terrorist attacks have been headline news this past week.

When an Iranian refugee turned self-styled Muslim cleric named Man Haron Monis barricaded his way inside a Lindt Chocolate Café in Sydney, it took a police raid 16 hours after the siege began to free the hostages trapped inside. Three people, including Monis, died.

When Taliban fighters stormed a crowded school in Peshawar, they managed to kill 145 people over eight hours, 132 of them schoolchildren. Stories are emerging of kids being lined up and shot, or shot as they cowered under their desks. NBC News reports that one teacher was doused with gasoline and burned alive while students were forced to watch.

Once again, we are left grappling with grieving families and terrorized communities. And even though, in both of these instances, the attacks happened across time zones, countries, oceans, and continents, at least a little of the fear there nevertheless comes home to roost here.

This, of course, is exactly what these terrorist organizations want. CNN reports that ISIS is calling on their allies and sympathizers to carry out so called “lone-wolf” attacks in their homelands. They attacks do not have to be big, expensive, and well organized – as were the attacks of 9/11 – they simply have to be frightening. Fear, these criminals know, is a powerful thing.

Certainly, national governments need to put into place policies to try to prevent these attacks. Certainly, law enforcement officials need to have plans in place to deal swiftly and forcefully with any terrorist attack. And certainly, surveillance of and intelligence from terrorist groups and lone wolf sympathizers is needed so governments can know and foil terrorist plots them before they have a chance to carry them out.

But what about us? What about people who are normal, everyday citizens like us who are increasingly frightened that we could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and be mown down by a terrorist attack?

The fact of the matter is this: we cannot control what will happen to us in the future. We do not know whether or not we will fall victim to a terrorist attack. But we can confront and control the fear we feel right now.

The apostle John gives us a simple strategy for dealing with fear: “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). When a mad man or a despicable organization terrifies people with a dastardly deed, what is the best way for the rest of us to respond? By loving those people.   Spontaneous tributes to the fallen that have arisen in the wake of these attacks indicate that, already, these communities are banding together to love each other through fear.

As of now, I have not seen any relief efforts that we in the states can participate in to express our love and support to the families of these victims in Australia and Pakistan. But with Christmas fast approaching, my guess is, you know at least one person who, though they may not be terrorized, is fearful in some way. Perhaps you know someone who has lost their spouse this year and is worried about how they will deal with their first Christmas apart from their loved one. Perhaps you know someone who is terminally ill and is facing the very real and understandable fears that come with knowingly being at the end of life. John’s words ring just as true in these cases as they do in cases of terror: “Perfect love drives out fear.”

So love who you can love. For in doing so, you bring peace where there is fear. And in a season when we remember some angels who announced “peace on earth to men” (Luke 2:14) thanks to a “God [who] so loved the world [that] He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16) so we could “not be afraid” (John 14:27), this is most definitely an appropriate mission.

December 22, 2014 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Peace and Justice in the Face of ISIS

Credit: NBC News

Credit: NBC News

First it was James Foley. Days later, it was Steven Sotloff. The beheading of two journalists by ISIS has certainly thrust the travesties of this terrorist organization to the forefront of our minds and our news cycle. But these are just ISIS’s latest crimes. At the beginning of August, some 50,000 Yazidis were forced to flee into the mountains of Iraq or face death at the hands of ISIS militants. ISIS also kidnapped hundreds Yazidi women, selling them as sex slaves for as little as $25. Last week, The New York Times profiled the gut-wrenching story of Iraqi soldier Ali Hussein Kadhim who was captured along with hundreds of other soldiers by ISIS militants.  Christians too have been in ISIS’s crosshairs, being threatened with death if they do not convert to radical Islam or pay a tax.

Back home, President Obama is grappling with how to deal with a terrorist threat and crimes against humanity that are half a world away. And he’s been getting pressure from all sides. On one side, a coalition of religious conservatives has signed a petition calling for decisive military action:

It is imperative that the United States and the international community act immediately and decisively to stop the ISIS … genocide and prevent the further victimization of religious minorities. This goal cannot be achieved apart from the use of military force to degrade and disable ISIS … forces.[1]

On the other side, a group of Catholic and Protestant leaders has written a letter to President, urging caution and restraint:

While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should compel the international community to respond in some way, U.S. military action is not the answer. Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq. As difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy, nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation processes.[2]

This is a crisis no president wants to face. This crisis also presents an ethical dilemma no Christian finds easy to confront. On the one hand, my preference and prayer would be that ISIS repent of their crimes and peace be restored to Iraq. On the other hand, I am sober-minded enough to know that ISIS shows no signs of softening. When even the Taliban is concerned about ISIS’s extremism, things are not on the right track.

So how do we understand this problem theologically?

A curious feature of biblical theology is what scholars refer to as “proleptic eschatology.” In short, proleptic eschatology asserts that bits and pieces of what will happen on the Last Day show up in our days. For example, the apostle Paul claims that Christ’s resurrection is only “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). In other words, the resurrection of all flesh on the Last Day has shown up in the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. Likewise, Jesus describes His return on the Last Day to judge the earth thusly: “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). But before a cosmic judgment on the Last Day, Jesus describes a smaller judgment in the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem in His day: “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Jesus’ words come to pass when the Roman general Titus decimates Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The judgment of the Last Day shows up in the destruction of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day.

It is this theology of proleptic eschatology that Paul has in mind when he exhorts his readers: Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Paul promises that even if we see miscarriages of justice in our day, God will avenge evil on the Last Day.

But that’s not the only day God will avenge evil.

Paul knows the evil of our day, if left unchecked until the Last Day, would yield unspeakable horrors. This is why Paul continues by explaining that bits and pieces of God’s judgment on the Last Day show up in our day through the actions of world governments: “[The governing authority] is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). The judgment of God against sin on the Last Day shows up through world governments in our day.

This, then, brings us to the Christian’s ethical dilemma. Because, on the one hand, we are called to wait patiently until the Last Day for God’s perfect judgment and justice to be revealed. On the other hand, governing authorities – including our own governing authority – can be used by God as His agents to bring temporal justice to the criminal problems of our day. This is why two sets of Christians can write two very different letters to President Obama.

I, for one, am praying that perhaps ISIS will have a Jonah moment – that they, like when Jonah preached to Nineveh, will hear the warning of God’s judgment, repent, and be spared of His wrath. But I am also very aware that after the preaching of Jonah to Nineveh came the preaching of Nahum to Nineveh – and with the preaching of Nahum to Nineveh came God’s wrath against Nineveh.

The clock is ticking on ISIS. I pray for peace and reconciliation. But I also pray that justice against these terrorists will not tarry long. The spilled blood of thousands is crying out.

__________________________

[1]A Plea on Behalf of Victims of ISIS/ISIL Barbarism in Iraq,” iraqrescue.org.

[2]53 national religious groups, academics, ministers urge alternatives to U.S. military action in Iraq,” Mary Knoll Office for Global Concerns (8.27.2014).

September 8, 2014 at 5:15 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – Some Much Needed Rest

Rest Area 2This past weekend in worship and ABC, we talked about the importance of working smarter rather than harder.  The poster child for the opposite – working harder rather than smarter – was Moses, who, after he explained to his father-in-law Jethro how he was serving as the sole arbiter and judge for all of Israel’s disputes, was told by his father-in-law, “What you are doing is not good.  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18).  Blessedly, Moses humbly swallowed his pride and, in Exodus 18:24, we read, “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.”

Moses may have had the good sense to listen to his father-in-law and delegate some of his duties to other trustworthy Israelites, but, even with some much needed help, Moses’ responsibilities did not suddenly became light and easy.  Jethro admits as much when, after encouraging Moses to share his workload with others, he says, “If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain” (Exodus 18:23).  Moses’ responsibilities, though fewer, will continue to be straining and stressful.  There will still be plenty for Moses to do.

Perhaps you can relate to Moses.  After all, you, like Moses, have probably been told of the importance of working smarter and not harder.  Yet, no matter how many time management principles you implement and no matter how many tasks you delegate, you, like Moses, may still find yourself awash in a sea of obligations and unexpected troubles that can become overwhelming at times.  What do you do when the principles of working smarter rather than harder fail you?  Jesus shows the way.

Mark 6 proves to be one of the most tragic in the Gospel.  Jesus’ dear friend and cousin, John the Baptist, is beheaded at the behest of Herod Antipas’ stepdaughter.  Jesus is understandably distraught.  But Jesus’ jam-packed calendar of ministry marches on.  In the episode immediately succeeding John the Baptist’s untimely death, Mark notes, “So many people were coming and going that Jesus and His disciples did not even have a chance to eat” (Mark 6:31).  Jesus may be mourning, but the crowds still want to see Him.

It is with the memory of Jesus’ cousin weighing in on Him and the throngs of curiosity seekers pressing down around Him that Jesus issues an invitation to His disciples, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

Jesus’ invitation is fascinating.  Though Jesus Himself is certainly tired and emotionally spent, Jesus’ primary concern is not with Himself, but with His disciples.  The verbs of His invitation – “come” and “get some rest” – are second person plural verbs.  That is, Jesus is saying to His followers, “You come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and you get some rest.”  Jesus, knowing that His disciples are exhausted even as He is exhausted, nevertheless has compassion on His disciples and invites them to get some rest by spending time with Him.

Jesus, it seems, is a man of boundless compassion.  He has compassion on His disciples when He invites them to rest with Him.  When Jesus’ plans for a peaceful getaway are foiled because large crowds follow Him to His destination, Mark notes, “He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So He began teaching them many things” (Mark 6:34).  Jesus has compassion on the crowds when He cancels His vacation plans to preach them a sermon.  Following His sermon, when He finds out the crowds He has been teaching are hungry, He has compassion on the multitudes by holding history’s first potluck.  When everyone else forgets to bring a side dish, Jesus takes the meager offering of a little boy – five loaves and two fish – and multiplies it to feed five thousand.

As He does on the disciples when they are tired and as He does on the crowds when they are spiritually lost and physically hungry, Jesus has compassion on you too.  When your life is straining and stressful, Jesus understands.  After all, He has gone through straining and stressful times too – losing loved ones and being exhausted by the rigors of day-to-day ministry.  But Jesus doesn’t just empathize, He can also help.  For the same invitation He offers to His disciples, He extends to you:  “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).  Or, as He puts it another time:  “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

No time management principle – no matter how good it may be – can remove all stress and strain from life.  For life is full of the unexpected.  But no stress or strain – no matter how heavy – can destroy the peace and rest that Jesus gives.  For the peace and rest that Jesus gives is not based on life’s circumstances, but on His promise.  And His promise is stronger than life’s stresses.

So go away with Jesus and get some rest.  You need it.

January 28, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Weekend Extra – “Departing ____ Peace”

As a pastor, I have had the weighty responsibility, but also the profound privilege, of counseling with many people who are near death.  Over the course of these conversations, I have noticed some themes have emerged.  Many of the terminally ill are scared of death, which, at least in my opinion, is completely understandable.  Others are worried about organizing their affairs before they pass away.  One theme that always emerges from these conversations is a wish for a peaceful death.  “I hope I die in my sleep,” some say.  “I hope I have friends and family with me,” others say.  No one wants to die in fear or alone.  People want to die peacefully.

This desire to die peacefully is nothing new.  Indeed, in our reading from this past weekend from Luke 2, we are introduced to an old man named Simeon who himself is near death.  Knowing this, Simeon gives thanks to the Lord that He is “letting His servant depart in peace” (Luke 2:29).  Simeon believes, even as his prayer indicates, that his death will be a peaceful one.  But why does Simeon believe such a thing?  How does Simeon know whether his death will peaceful or agonizing?

Luke explains why Simeon believes he will die peacefully:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation.” (Luke 2:25-30)

Simeon believes he will die peacefully because he has seen and held the One who is “the consolation of Israel” (verse 25) and “the Lord’s Christ” (verse 26).  Because he has held the One who is peace (cf. Ephesians 2:14), Simeon believes that he will depart in peace.

Notably, when Simeon thanks the Lord for allowing him to depart “in peace,” the Greek word for the preposition “in” is en. This preposition is one of the most versatile in the Greek language.  One Greek-English lexicon translates this single preposition as “in,” “at,” “near,” “before,” “for,” “with,” and “among,” among many others.  In other words, this preposition is a catchall preposition.  Indeed, Simeon’s words could nearly be translated, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart *INSERT PREPOSITION HERE* peace!”

This catchall preposition en reveals a profound truth of the peace that Christ gives us.  For Christ’s peace makes us at peace with God (2 Peter 2:14), near God in faith (Hebrews 10:22), before God as His justified people (Luke 18:14), for God in love (1 John 5:3), with God unto eternity (Revelation 21:3), and among God as we serve His people (Matthew 25:40).  There is no preposition that the peace of Christ cannot cover!  And this makes Christ’s peace a profound peace.

What peace do you need?  Do you need peace with your past?  Do you need peace at work?  Do you need peace for an upcoming decision?  Then pray with Simeon, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart *INSERT PREPOSITION HERE* peace!”  For the peace of Christ covers whatever preposition you might have in this life – or even in the next.  What a precious peace is the peace of Christ!  As Augustine says, “Peace shall be your gold. Peace shall be your silver. Peace shall be you lands. Peace shall be your life, your God Peace” (Augustine NPNF1 8:94)!

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from this weekend’s message!

December 27, 2010 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Peace and Passivity

In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held a series of two-week long “Bed-Ins” in Amsterdam and Montreal as a way to protest the ongoing Vietnam War and promote peace.  They simply stayed in bed for their honeymoon, a place they felt was “peaceful,” in hopes of watching peace reign not only in their hotel room, but in the world.  It was during his second “Bed-In” in Montreal that John Lennon penned his famous single, “Give Peace A Chance.”  The lyrics are strange, but memorable: “Everybody’s talking about Bagism, Madism, Dragism, Shagism, Ragism, Tagism, this -ism, that -ism.  All we are saying is give peace a chance.”  Despite his plea, the war did not end until some six years later.

The popular conception of peace can often be deduced from the context in which the word is used.  Contextually, John and Yoko wanted to “give peace a chance.”  That is, they thought that peace, if allowed to take its due course, would eventually carry the day.  And so they took a chance on peace.  And they lost.  The Vietnam War did not end when they wanted.  And many wars have since taken its place.  Peace is not best left to chance.

Jesus conceives of peace in a wholly different manner.  Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).  In a world that seeks only to chance peace, Jesus wants something else:  He wants to make peace.  This is radically different from John and Yoko’s vision of peace.  For their vision of peace was essentially passive.  If people just “gave peace a chance,” peace might carry the day.  Jesus’ vision of peace, however, leaves nothing to chance.  Thus, Jesus’ vision of peace is essentially active.  Where there is no peace, Jesus calls on His followers to make peace.  For Jesus knows that, in a sinful, fallen, broken world like ours, peace must be made, not just allowed.

This active vision of peace is reflected in our text from this past weekend.  The apostle Paul writes to two feuding women:  “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).  When Euodia’s and Syntyche’s peace is shattered by a feud, Paul does not just sit around, ready to “give peace a chance”;  rather, he actively seeks to reconcile the differences between these two women so that peace may result.  He “entreats” them.

Paul, of course, is simply following the example of his Savior who, when Jews and Gentiles were estranged because of their adherence to God’s Law, abolished “the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:16-17).  Christ, through the cross, makes peace, both with God and with others, and gives us that peace by faith.  We, in turn, are called to reflect Christ’s effort at peace in our own lives, as Paul elsewhere writes, “Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19).

What kind of premium do you put on peace?  Are you content merely to “give peace a chance,” or are you more active in your efforts at peace?  When you get into a fight with someone else, do you go seek them out to reconcile with them, or do you wait for them to come to you?  When you see a marriage in trouble, do you actively speak God’s Word into that couple’s life, or do you simply stay away, scared to confront this couple’s sin?  God’s peace is not a passive idea, it’s an active reality. Finally, this active reality is embodied by Jesus who actively lived, suffered, and died so that we may have peace.  May you actively pursue peace for the sake of others…and for the sake of yourself.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

December 20, 2010 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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