Tuesday, May 3, 2011

There is only one death that can set the world right...

Jesus was no stranger to war or terror.  He didn’t have half a globe to separate him from  those who sought to ravage and kill for political and religious gain.  No, they lived in his back yard.  
Our “plight” is nothing compared to the context in which Jesus spoke his words and lived his life.  We live under the distant murmur of terror, the families in Jesus’ land when it intimately.  We have pundits who rile us up and get us to fear a distant threat in the Middle East.  The Jews lived their lives under the thumb of oppressive overlords.
The worst nightmares painted by the talking heads on our televisions screens wouldn’t do justice to the reality of the world that Jesus lived in.  We have rising oil prices, they had death and destruction.  We had one day in September, they had countless days every year.  We have 3,000 loved ones gone, they surely had multiple times more.  
We think we have it bad, but they had worse than we fear.  In Jesus’ own words as he predicts the destruction of the temple and the slaughter at Jerusalem:
"6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
   9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death...let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!"
This reminds me of a certain argument that I hear all too often. “Not my wife, not my kids, I don’t care what you say, I’d kill pick up a gun and kill 100 Arabs before letting them touch my family.”
According to Josephus, there were 1.1 Million causalities at the destruction of the Temple, and nearly 100,000 were capture and enslaved.  A few more than 3,000, if you ask me.  
Jesus saw this death and destruction at the temple coming, but he didn't pick up a sword to defend those pregnant women and nursing mothers.  Seems like Jesus would have wanted to prevent this.
But how?  By killing off millions of Romans instead of millions of Jews?  Death is a cycle, a wheel of destruction.  As Martin Luther King Jr once aptly said, “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”  

Just as we can’t earn God’s favor by our own effort, we can’t set the world right by our own devices.  Death is of man and the enemy, how do we expect death to make us safe once again?  The “safety” man has created through the murder of Osama Bin Laden will crumble and fall.  It is built on a false foundation.
Just as we can’t enter the kingdom by propping ourselves up on our own righteousness, we can’t fix our world by continuing the cycle of this world.  

There is only one death that can set the world right.  He did it.

Despite this, the bible doesn’t promise us safety in this world.  Easy to say when our struggles are only financial, but what about when your enemy is in your back yard, breathing down your neck, or even with a knife to your throat?
“Who shall separate us from the love (and death) of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
    "For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
   we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, (not terrorists nor jehad) nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So how do we respond in the face of terror and death?  
As Chris Martin says, “I don’t want to battle from beginning to end, I don’t want to cycle, recycle revenge, I don’t want to follow death and all of his friends.”  
Luckily, we don’t have to.

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