God of Peace and Justice

This weekend I’m giving a talk on the God of Peace and Justice.

As if on cue, the writing of this talk is now punctuated by news that Israel has launched a ground invasion into Gaza and rumors are swirling that a passenger (!) jet was “blown out of the sky” by a missile near the Russian-Ukranian border.

I find myself at a loss.

As someone whose citizenship and home lies within the nation that has created unprovoked war in Iraq, that ensconced itself in over a decade of combat in Afghanistan, and that is in the business of killing people around the world by dropping bombs by remote controlled “drones,” what can I possibly say?

America has no moral ground to stand on in opposing violence around the world. We have not found a better way to be agents of peace.

It is times like these that underscore the impossible dream that is the reign of God. The idea of power that does not seize power, the vision of a people who do not take their own revenge, who believe that life is found in giving it away rather than seizing it–that vision is an impossible dream.

We’ve caught glimpses of it, though. Gandhi opened up a better world in India. Martin Luther King, Jr. pushed opened the door to a better world here in the U.S.

I ask the question of where God might be in all this. What difference does God make?

One answer comes from the mirror that gets held up to us as American Christians when we want to speak, but the hypocrisy of doing so shines forth in headlines about our own country’s drone activity.

We cannot speak because we have not pursued a better way. We have not pursued a better way because we have baptized the story of militarism and of nationalism rather than telling a better story enlightened by the narrative of Jesus.

Put differently, if the Christians in America believed that God’s route to peace and justice was the way of the crucified Christ rather than the crucifying Romans, America, and we who are Americans, would have some sort of footing from which to critique the devastation that other countries cause.

This beings me to a second dynamic.

I sub-titled my blog “Telling the story of the story-bound God.” God did a dangerous thing when God bound Godself to humanity. It was a decision to allow God’s name, God’s character, God’s reputation, be bound up with God’s people.

If God appears absent on the world stage due to the inflammations of war and injustice, it is because God’s people have not embraced and lived out the story of God as king of peace.

Finally, I don’t think that any particular conflict is proliferating due to a misapprehension of the identity of God by one or both parties. These wars are not clearly wars about religion or driven by religion.

However, there is a transformation that the gospel story demands of us in how we see the “other.” There is a call to be like God who causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

We are not called to the naive denial that there is injustice, or that we have a true enemy, but we are called to pray for and love such perpetrators.

More than that, we are to follow in the way of the God who, in Christ, reconciled all things to himself, and be agents of such reconciliation. The gospel story looks like enemies being won over through sacrificial love.

We need to be wary of taking sides in these conflicts, and in so doing accept the economies of power that the world is handing us.

That is to say, there is a gospel answer in there, somewhere. There is a way that God has made Godself known which says both that the world is not, right now, the world as God would have it to be, and which says at the same time that God has shown us a better way and patiently woos us toward it.

If only we will listen. If only we will follow.

The complicated question of how we as not only Christians but citizens are to live in a world where this dream of Kingdom come has not been realized, well, that’s another question as well.

7 thoughts on “God of Peace and Justice”

  1. Lord have mercy…Christ have mercy.

    Daniel, you bring up some painful points; points that need to be thought about. I have been fortunate to do much international traveling for work. For me the best part of every trip, no matter what exotic locale I visited, was coming home and going through US Customs. I cannot say enough good things about these United States. Yet you point out truths I must take into account. So how do I reconcile them as an American? As a follower of Jesus?

    A few years back a friend of mine who used to follow Christ but decided there was too much hypocrisy in it invited me to a talk Richard Dawkins was giving at UC Berkeley. Sure, why not. After a period of time I found myself extremely agitated at the dripping sarcasm and frontal attacks on my Lord that permeated the auditorium. I threw up one of those Nehemiah popcorn-prayers saying “Lord, these people are beating you up badly. How can I defend your great name?” Immediately I felt a response come back saying; “I can defend myself!” Well, since I am a doer, naturally I did not stop so I tossed up another one and said; “But what is it you want me to do?” Again, in an instant came back the answer; “Love them.” And that was it.

    As an American, I believe one of my strongest weapons in this country is my vote.
    As a Christian I only have one weapon. Somehow I have to show the love of Jesus through me.

    Thanks for making us think, Daniel.

    1. I threw up one of those Nehemiah popcorn-prayers saying “Lord, these people are beating you up badly. How can I defend your great name?” Immediately I felt a response come back saying; “I can defend myself!” Well, since I am a doer, naturally I did not stop so I tossed up another one and said; “But what is it you want me to do?” Again, in an instant came back the answer; “Love them.” And that was it.

      Thank you for sharing this. A friend of mine likes to say, “God is a very secure person.” What you heard from God sounds very much like what John Eldredge describes in Walking with God (God speaks to him: “my love”). He, unlike so many Christians, actually takes the New Covenant seriously.

  2. The schooling of children by government, conditioning them to identify with an ideology of nationhood and pride in man-made things ( pledging allegiance to a flag / symbol ) and other secular ideas, have nothing to do with faith in God, yet they are married in almost every culture and civilization today and this evidence can be seen all over the kountry called Amerika ( the phallic symbol: obelisks, depictions of pagan gods on state buildings like court houses, etc. ).

    The use of “we” when speaking of a country of government one happens to reside in but doesn’t support shouldn’t be used… for I am certainly not part of the same “we” who is supporting such wicked government. The idea that Amerika is a ‘Christian’ nation is part of the narrative and national religion / manufactured ideology… this, as was done in kountried before it like Germany, is used to get passive people to say nothing when their [s]elected officials wage war in the name of their god or for whatever other thing works.

    God doesn’t recognize nationalities nor man-made ideologies… nor does He support genocide in light of the message of Christ. Far too many people ( whether they call themselves Christians or Muslims or whatever ) believe their government, media propaganda and the blind support of wicked regimes called good preached by their pastor on any given religious day. Why the thought that the Amerikan is ‘good’ while all other peoples and tribes of the world are less than good? This is yet another condition aptly applied to soft minds as they are being raised by state schooling and media programming ( it is called “programming” for a reason ).

    The believer and follower of the Word of God can and soon discovers that he / she is like Daniel living in Babylon…. with nothing but pagan / idol worship around him and his faith being something not easily understood publicly but actually life-risking…. yet God always uses this type of faithful man / woman to work miracles and bring glory to Himself…. throughout the entire Word of God ( new and old testament and other writings ) God is revealed in the most dire of situations to bring notice onto mankind of ‘who’ He is and ‘how’ He is…. and it is the faithful who live out their lives as an ambassador of Him ( Christ ) who are used as the tools of His grace and good purpose.

    Readers of this blog: snap out of your slumber and be the Christ-like leader of your neighborhood / community He calls you to be… cease marrying your heart and mind to what is called “amerikan” and realize God isn’t about boundaries nor ethnicity nor peoples nor man made ideologies… but about those who believe and obey His Word.

    God isn’t more Amerikan nor Israeli ( that state ideology and its horrific actions ) than you or me are Martian.

  3. In the context of the sheer madness in Gaza and Ukraine, I have repeatedly listened to U2′s “Wake Up Dead Man” this week, particularly the live version from Slane Castle. Bono sings so directly to how God may be bound to our story, but also may be bound from action in this world. Were Ghandi and King and are we the unbound hands of God?

    Jesus, I’m waiting here, boss
    I know you’re looking out for us
    But maybe your hands aren’t free.

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