sojourner, hearer, & follower of Jesus

Category: Violence

My Response to Bin Laden’s Death

I joined the many others who watched with surprise the news that Osama Bin Laden had been found and killed. It was almost unreal, the face of terror for almost a decade was now gone. What would our response be?

I can only speak about my response. I say this carefully and humbly knowing that we all respond to things very differently. My feeling last night (and as I continue to reflect on it today) has been sadness.

I am saddened that thousands have been the victims of the madness of one mastermind.

I am saddened that fear continues to influence so much in our world.

I am saddened that many lives have been lost in search of a madman.

I am saddened that in the end this inevitable act does not mean that justice has been done.

So I am struggling today, I cannot celebrate, although I can understand why some might feel jubilant. I am struggling today, I cannot celebrate, although I understand why some think justice has been done. I am struggling today, I cannot celebrate, but I can pray for the world, for the common good, for people of faith, for God’s kingdom to come.

May we respond to each other honestly, humbly, and lovingly. May God’s people, who continue to celebrate this season of Easter, may reflect on what our loving response should be, to each other, to the events happening around us, and to the way forward, as a people of resurrection!

Bible in 90 – Day 24: Power

Thus the kingdom was secured in Solomon’s hands.

I Kings 2:46b

Power can be a dangerous thing. What started as a peaceful transfer of power soon turns into a bloodbath in order to protect the power received.

As a fan of the Godfather I’ve been wanting to speak about this scene for a while. Each time I watch it brings new insight into why the scene is so powerful. The church and its liturgies parallel to the human condition and its need for divine grace.

Our sin and the need for grace shows us that we have some choices to make. We either renounce the forces of wickedness or we don’t, repent of our sin or we don’t, accept Christ as Savior or we don’t.

Yet the human condition is such that time and time again our hunger for power and control guides us to the wrong decisions. We take our destiny into our own hands and hope that God blesses it somehow.

The biblical text for today is the ancient version of this video. King Solomon wanted to make sure that he remained in control so he went on a spree to eliminate his enemies. And just like in the Godfather, the writers seem to suggest that somehow this behavior and God’s intention were one and the same.

In our daily life we might not have people killed to be in control. Yet we do, with words we say, actions we take, attitudes we have, we send a message that somehow the God we serve is ok with the ways we choose to live our lives.

Then Sunday after Sunday we gather together and tell the story of faith. In telling it we remind ourselves that we do have these tendencies and we once again, renounce, repent, and accept. Our baptism calling us back, reminding us that we are cleansed, that we belong to God, that all people are God’s children. That real power is the power of the sacrificed & resurrected Savior . . .

Bible in 90 – Day 23: Grief

The king was shaken. He went up to the upper chamber of the gateway and wept, moaning these words as he went, ‘My son Absalom! O my son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son!’

II Samuel 19:1

"David Mourns" by Guy Rowe

Absalom thought his father was an enemy, obviously his father did not agree. Absalom wanted the kingdom, thought it was time for his father to retire, David did not agree. So Absalom went to war against David to claim the throne. David asked his men to spare his son, in the end a terrible accident (his hair got tangled on the limbs of a  terebinth tree: see 18:9-18) placed him in a vulnerable position and he was killed.

Although David had the kingdom, he did not have his son. His grief was public and it expressed the desires of any parent in his situation.

At times of sorrow it is natural to look back, what could we have done differently? Could it have been avoided? Are only some of the questions that run through our minds. When it comes to our children we wonder about our parenting. We could have spent more time, cautioned more, not allowed, protected.

In the end the tragedy is the same, nothing can be changed, all that is left is grieving and attempt to carry on.

The king was not grieving like a king should. A few verses after this “news” Joab, his commander & the man who killed Absalom, tells him to stop weeping, for in the end Absalom was his enemy. How many times in our weeping have people told us to stop, to move on, for it makes them uncomfortable?

I can’t imagine the agony and pain. Walking with many who have experienced intense grief I know that shaking and weeping are common expressions. The realization of a life gone, a love lost, and a future unfulfilled are reasons to weep, moan, and wish for something different.

I am thankful for the biblical narrative that continually mirrors our experience with life, with each other, and with God. No matter how difficult they might be!

Bible in 90 – Day 16: Killed

When Israel had killed all the inhabitants of Ai who had pursued them into the open wilderness, and all of them, to the last man, had fallen by the sword, all the Israelites turned back to Ai and put it to the sword.

The total of those who fell that day, men and women, the entire population of Ai, came to twelve thousand.

Joshua 8:24-25 (TANAKH)

In the last few weeks we have been hearing much about violence, inflammatory rhetoric, and its repercussions. Many in the Christian tradition have been at the forefront of calling our nation to reflect on the effect that violence has in our society and how we can prevent the rise of violence in our communities.

At times we have called other religious traditions on what we perceive as their “culture of violence.”

As I read the scripture for today I was reminded of our own.

The conquest narratives in Joshua are some of the most difficult to hear. God’s voice is at the forefront of the conquest calling the nation of Israel to annihilate the enemy for they are the chosen ones, God’s people, and God will guide them to be victorious.

Often we find ourselves so convinced of our position, of our righteousness, that we can begin to believe that God is calling us to defeat our enemies in God’s name. Why wouldn’t God want us, those of us who follow, who are right, (tongue firmly planted in cheek) to defeat the enemy?

Because that so called enemy is God’s own creation also . . . Why would God tell anyone to destroy that which God made, the creation that God loves, no matter how off the mark that creation may be?

I believe that the Israelites thought that God had called them to be about this conquest. I do not believe that God told them to annihilate whole populations so that they could settle the land.

May we all learn to look into ourselves and discern God’s voice in every decision. Making sure that it aligns with God’s creative, reconciling, and redemptive mission in the world.

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