Monday, July 13, 2009

signs & wonders

According to one version I heard yesterday, someone ran their Tacoma into the Vineyard sign (which is no mean feat…) and then walked away from it apparently unhurt. Not sure what’s what yet. Don’t know how their vehicle made out, but from the looks of the sign, the Tacoma won.

This weekend in our Summer of Love series we covered the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder”. I briefly touched on the tension between Christian pacificism (Walter Wink’s “third way”) and “just war” theories. John Howard Yoder is probably the best to read on the former, and Augustine as an early proponent of the latter. C. S. Lewis’ “Why I Am Not a Pacifist” essay from The Weight of Glory is a quick, head-tilting read as well. Regardless of your slant, an introspective “heart-check” is critical to understand why one leans either way, to make sure we aren’t driven by fear, or self-preservation, or self-righteousness or vengeance.

For followers of Jesus, ultimately our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God before any nationalistic adherence. If there is an example that a government can actually champion as morally right for the safety and justice of its people, we should approach it extremely humbly. Jesus can never be aligned to a country or a cause—that’s what the freedom fighters of the first century, the Zealots, wanted of Him. But they missed the Big Picture: He is the Cause, the cure for a very sick human condition. In our current context, despite being Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, or whatever, we are all messed up with a one-way ticket to Gehenna unless intercepted by the grace and love of God. My politics will not save me. I desperately need Jesus.

The New Testament implies that in this age of grace, the business of war is associated with human governments, not the Kingdom of God. When Jesus was being interrogated by the Roman government, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my followers would be fighting for me...”. The Kingdom cannot be fought for on a flesh-and-blood level. The case for pacifism can best be made here: any persecution for the Kingdom’s sake is met with a martyr’s mindset.

At the same time, Paul seems to say we have a responsibility with human governments in a fallen world. He writes:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Romans 13:1–7 (TNIV)

The degree of involvement is what’s argued. The pacifist asks: should I even pay a portion of taxes that support a military?

Paul’s passage is tough to swallow for a guy like me, a product of the sixties. I was a vociferous anti-Nixon protestor, complete with black armbands and all. It seemed unconscionable to me that you could send an eighteen-year-old to Vietnam but he couldn’t vote until he was twenty-one. The Twenty-Sixth amendment finally rectified that in 1971. One study put the average soldier in the Vietnam war at nineteen-years-old as opposed to WWII where the average was twenty-six. But this is where this all gets tricky: despite what I would consider a strong “justice”-streak in me, I had other demons I was wrestling with, and by age twenty I was introduced to Christians who began to shake not so much my world view but the secret places of my heart. It is one thing to argue politics or even morality, but another thing when a seven-million watt searchlight exposes your soul. I was undone.

All this rambling simply means that at times I don’t trust my own heart in how I settle some of the peripheral theological issues (one might argue what is considered peripheral). It’s not always as black-and-white from text-to-text as I’d hope. And sometimes we have to admit that we’re looking through a glass darkly.

One thing I know for sure: Jesus changes everything. And I’m still working that out.


  1. Well said! To everything, turn, turn...I wonder if the trick is to not have a solid stance for or against war, but eyes and ears trained to the leading of the Holy Spirit as to when to be pacifist and when to declare earthly war...?

  2. So answer this question for all the troops. I am veteran myself.

    Is there a difference to killing versus murder?

    Do soldiers kill or do they murder?

  3. There are several different words sometimes translated as "kill" in the O.T. Even Jewish translators aren't unanimous on how they're interchanged. It seems clear, though, that distinctions were made regarding lawful/unlawful killing. The Jews, under God's covenant with them, certainly had soldiers, so apparently there was a distinction. Pacifists would argue against that; "just war" theorists would agree with it. I think you personally would benefit reading the Lewis essay in "The Weight of Glory". You can find it in the public library and online.

  4. Appreciate your vulnerability in the message and the way you tried to fairly present both sides of this issue.
    I was a little surprised that you didn't mention prejudice and specifically racism in the context of murder and anger.

  5. Weight of Glory talks of duty of soldiers, not to the answer to my question.

    Talks of being a mercenary versus victorious in battle.

    Lewis side steps this issue just as much as you won't answer this question.

    Duty to die for an idea or country. I would not die or kill for a country that condons torture. We are morally bankrupt as a nation, how we came to this point I have no idea.

    The vet who asked the question

    Is there a difference to klling versus murder?

    Killing - when survival takes over and you might believe in a cause that you are fighting for, also to not let your buddies down beside you.

    Murder - when there is no moral grounds to a war, when all means are justified to an end. When you can't find a shred of evidence that there is a cause to believe in for a war. When torture is condoned as an example.

  6. On 9/11/01, everybody cried tears of sadness. On 9/12/01, everybody cried for blood...vengence by any means necessary. By 9/12/2008, everybody was calling for the President of the USA to be indicted.

    I'm not saying that I agree with torture. Honestly, I don't know if I do or don't. I haven't had the opportunity to really think about it. However, we are torturing FAR less detainees than we have in previous wars and drastically less than our opposition. The difference is that the U.S.A. simulated drowning and the terrorists sliced off toes and, eventually heads.

  7. On the sign. Perhaps God was leading the driver in a straight path to the Church.

    War, killing, and murder. It is all wrong but sadly most of the times it appears to be the only solution.

    War begins when one power led by leaders with greed in mind try to grab up other nations or weaken them to reduce their threat.

    The attacked nation has to do two things. 1. Give up in submission and be passive. 2. Resist the agressors and call their armies to defend their borders. Thus the killing starts on both sides. Which one is justified and which one is murder? The answer is quite obvious I think.

    Killing to defend your self is certainly justified not only by political law but also the law of God in my belief.

    How many times in the old testament did God himself destroy whole nations that turned their backs on His word. Joshua led the Israelites against the ones that held the promised land captive and with Gods blessing Joshua killed all the people ( women and children included?).

    Could this be called murder too?

    It is better to be a pacifist in most cases but when your life is in imminent danger, the right to survive kicks in as a natural instinct which I think that God gave us that one for that reason. After all, He is the one that has pre determined our day to die in the flesh so that we may rise up to the Heavenly home and not one day sooner.

    As long as we have greedy agressors in this sinful world that are willing to kill and murder for their own purpose, we as Christians and free people must be willing to lay down our lives to protect that idealisn of freedom, religion, and moral values so that we can continue to prosper rather than be slaves or pacifist to a sinful idealism.

    As many of you have read in our History that was the main purpose our forefathers created the Declaration of Independence and a new Nation so that all could be free to practice religion as they chose, speech, and right to bear arms for defense with out government intervention.

    I don't think this nation has grown to be such a super power by man alone. I would think God played an important role in shaping this country. Sadly this very nation is now turning it's back on God with the current restrictions being imposed on religion by a radical few using government power to do so.

    Are we to be pacifist in this current movement? I THINK NOT !

  8. Great sermon! Every time I hear your sermons, they give me something new to chew on--new perspectives on stuff I seldom think about. I also agree with photogr. I think God definitely puts that strong will to survive inside of us....As individuals, and as a nation.
    I've really enjoyed this series of messages, and am learning to look at the commandments in a different light. Thanks!!

  9. Love the temporary sign! The crossed out arrow for going straight is hilarious.

  10. Since God let people die does that make God a killer? So does that mean God had a sin of ommission to let people die and just stood by?