Divided in Discussion, United in Prayer

Military260Should we recognize “Armed Forces Day” in our church worship services?

What place does the community of God have with human armed conflict?

That was the question that we faced this week.   Apparently, AFD is this Saturday, and Memorial Day is, of course, soon upon us too.   So the question is, how much should we recognize military action in church context?

I doubt we were unified on our answer.   LOL!   It seems that many of us come from very divergent perspectives on the place and appropriateness of war and violence for Christians.  And so, a lengthy discussion ensued.

I thought I would mention it here in the blog, however, because I think I have learned a lot through this interaction.  And hopefully there is something you can learn here too, or contribute to this conversation.

I was already in the process of putting together a work on “non-violence” in preparation for Memorial Day and this discussion allowed me to purposely interact with my peers and colleagues and learn much more.

Over the next several days, I will be sharing with you some of my own conclusions on violence and war, based on how I understand Jesus, but I’d like to start today by sharing what I learned from just the act of discussing this issue this week with people I care deeply about.

1) I love my church! The great thing about the church I am a part of is that we have many divergent views on many topics, but we are committed to loving each other anyway.   I know of very few places in the world where people can feel safe to genuinely disagree on complex issues and still feel acceptance and love.

Often the church is criticized as a place where differing opinions are not welcome.  There is a sense that you must “check your brain at the door” and just go along with the party line when it comes to church.  And while I have seen places that this is true, church at its best is open to discussion and exploration and genuine conversation that seeks to understand God and our life with God better.

To those that are skeptical of church for this reason, I would like to encourage you that there are communities that are open to your dialogue.  These difficult issues can be what divide us.  Especially in church.  And yet, in the context of my community, I found it a wonderful chance to explore the reasoning and understanding of different views and grow in the process.   Thank you to my friends, Paul and Dave and others who chimed in and contributed their wonderful assessments and convictions!

It is discussions like this one this week that remind me of why I love being a part of the body that I am.  The Apostle Paul calls us to “be devoted to one another” or to stand by each other through thick and thin.  And in this interaction, I have seen yet again that our body models this call extremely well.  Cheers to you, brothers and sisters!

prayer2)  Whether pacifists or “just war” proponents, we all agree that we should support and pray for the people from our body that are currently surrounded by and engaged in violence.

And in the end, maybe that is what matters.  We may disagree about war, national violence, or the extent to which we should participate in our country’s defense of itself and ideals, but at the conclusion all of us love and care deeply about those in our body that are in danger (physically, mentally/emotionally, spiritually) due to war and violence.

I think we will all be praying even more diligently for these brothers and sisters over the next few weeks, in part possibly because of this conversation.  I know I will.  And I will be encouraging those around me to spend more time praying .

I would encourage you to spend some time praying for people that you know that are serving in the military this weekend as well.

Pray for their physical safety, of course.  Pray that they will return home to have full lives away from such violence.

Pray for their emotional/mental health.  We have all seen the devastating effect on the human psyche (especially in recent news stories of military suicides and post-traumatic stress issues) that violence-seen or participated-in creates.

personaluse2_9050019~A-Makeshift-Peace-Sign-of-Flowers-Lies-on-Top-John-Lennon-s-Strawberry-Fields-Memorial-PostersPray for their spiritual health as they wrestle with things they’ve seen, things they’ve been called to do and the terrible side of humanity that they have been exposed to.

Also, join me in praying for PEACE.  While it seems that eradicating the planet of violence is impossible, I believe that all things are possible with God.  Pray with me that we may sow seeds of PEACE and that because of the message of Christ our world will change.  Pray that our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and friends will no longer need to leave us to go to war.  Pray that nations will beat their weapons into plowshares.   Pray for PEACE.

In the next few days we’ll look at some Scripture and the message of Jesus to discuss the place of violence and war in the life of a follower of Jesus.  We will be thinking about whether Christians should involve themselves in various types of violence: national violence (military service), self-defense (if attacked by another), in protection of another that is being attacked, or various other situations.

Hopefully it will be helpful and create broader discussion.  I’ll probably break it into a three-part blog series.  So, check back and feel free to leave a comment and join the conversation.

‘Till then, Grace and peace…

Scary God or Scary People?

One of the toughest problems that I have been wrestling with in the last year is how to match up the God of the Old Testament that engages in so much violence with God as revealed completely in “gentle” Jesus of the New Testament.

jesus-with-rifleAs a follower of Christ, my primary belief is not in the Bible.  My faith is in Jesus.  I follow him, not a book.  However, I choose to read that book because of my belief in Him.  And when it comes to reading that book, I do so through the “lense” of Jesus.  I base all of my theology and understanding of God on the person of Jesus, and through that filter I read the rest of the book.  Which, of course, means that I read those very troubling Old Testament passages through how God has been revealed in Jesus as well.

This has been quite a journey for me over several years.  And yet, as I have re-focused my centrality around Jesus rather than just the Bible, I can only come to one conclusion:  I believe that violence is always wrong and outside of God’s ideal for me personally and humankind generally.  Whether it be in the form of war, personal vengeance or even self-defense, I believe I am always called to “return evil with good” and not claim my right to violence.

However, there is much to still be wrestled with in this arena.  And while I am still quite a work in progress, I think a lot of understanding is falling into place.

For those of you who may have found yourself wrestling with this same topic at some point, allow me to suggest some helpful resources.

First, is an excellent article that I came across this week by Brad Cole that deals with this topic called, “Scary God or Scary People.”  Take a read here, if you are interested.  (Scary God or Scary People)

Also, Greg Boyd (author and preacher) has some very good insights in his book:

themythofachristiannation“The Myth of A Christian Nation”

and in a series of blog entries that he did last year.  Here is a link to those posts as well.

Part I
Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII

Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
PartXIII

Anyway, some of you have been asking about some good resources and hopefully this will help.  Happy thinking!