With all the unrest in the Middle East and Africa these days, there is a lot of talk about “just wars’ and killing in the name of liberation and justice. I have long struggled with taking the life of someone else simply because of their political ideology. Now I am not naïve and understand that many people in these parts of the world are being oppressed and treated in inhumane ways. I don’t think anyone would disagree with the need to help them. My heart breaks when I read the stories of those who are brutally tortured and killed simply because they follow Jesus. I find it repulsive that any leader would abuse his power and live in luxury while his own people starve. I can’t, however, believe that killing the perceived enemy is the way Christ would approach the situation.
The horrific fact of the matter is that most of the people being killed in these parts of the world do not know Christ. When their lives are taken, any chance of coming to know the love and life offered by Jesus is taken from them as well. We wield the weapons that forever separate them from God. I am not a pacifist; I grew up in a military family and was brought up to believe that America is God’s chosen instrument to dole out justice in the world. As an adult I now struggle with that idea and with the dichotomy of war. Killing seems senseless and contrary to the teachings of Christ. Every day, more die and go to hell. I shudder at what is going on in the world as it seems to spiral ever downward and away from God.
If you’ve read this far hoping to find answers, I’m afraid you will be disappointed; I don’t have any. It seems wrong to sit back and ignore the injustice, while at the same time it seems even more wrong to eliminate the chance for someone to come to Christ before they die. Surely there must be an alternate solution. Perhaps if the Church (and that includes both you and me) were truly doing what we have been called to do, then maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. We are called to love our neighbor, but we are more prone to suspicion and jealousy. We are told to care for the poor, but our actions reveal that we keep far more for ourselves than we share. Individually we are too selfish, and collectively we have isolated ourselves from the world around us. Since the walls of our buildings were not designed to keep the members in, does it not follow that they were created to keep others out?
Wherever Jesus went, people were drawn to Him. They wanted to hear what He had to say, and be wherever he was going. What sort of following are we drawing? War did not spring up around Jesus and His disciples. In fact when those who did not believe in Jesus put Him to death, His followers did not rebel in violence. Instead they continued serving those around them which resulted in more and more coming to know the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. When His followers were themselves being put to death, they still did not respond in violence but instead were emboldened to take His message throughout the world.
Are we in the modern Church living worthy of our commission? We are called to demonstrate the love and peace of Jesus to all people, regardless of nationality or origin. It is tempting to get caught up within patriotism and to identify oneself with their country. Remember that we are a new creation, and as followers of Jesus, we now identify with Him alone. We have no weapons save for the love of God. It’s about time we started wielding that weapon in the world in which we live. We all are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Let’s start the healing process one person at a time, and let’s fan that flame throughout the world. True peace is never established by the sword; it comes only through the cross.