War. What is it Good For?
For most of my life, I’ve believed that the world was gradually becoming a more peaceful place.
Having grown up amidst some of the chilliest days of the Cold War era and the specter of a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union, I lived long enough to witness the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dawning of a new day for the former Eastern Bloc countries. I even lived in Hungary for a time in 1994 and felt the hope and promise of what could be when the communist nightmares were over and freedom seemed to have won.
I’ve been naive. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the recent gruesome attack on Israel by terrorists in Hamas, and the impending war there are visceral, depressive reminders that we humans have a long way to go before we “ain’t gonna study war no more” as the old song goes.
My sense is that there is a constant pull to an “Old Testament mindset” that must be resisted. What do I mean by Old Testament mindset? Simply, the human tendency to identify a large group of humans by lineage (racial, cultural, linguistic characteristics) and then make both political and personal judgments based on that lineage. For example, Egyptians enslaved Israelites. Israelites wiped out Canaanites. Assyrians wiped out everybody. Read the book of Judges sometimes, it’s a slow devolution of what happens to civilization when everybody does their own thing based on lineage.
God broke into history and chose Israel to bless all nations. Though it has taken God’s children centuries to trust and believe this, it’s true! God even sent his Son, born into a Jewish family amidst war-torn times in the Middle East, to usher in a new community where “there is now no Greek or Jew, male or female, slave or free.”
I have believed that this beautiful Gospel idea – that we perceive each human being as an image bearer of God and evaluate them on their own individual merits – was slowly permeating Western culture and global civilization. The events of the last week have evidenced a darkness moving in the polar opposite direction.
Anti-Israel individuals and organizations openly challenge the right of Israel to exist and have declared that Jewish lives are therefore rightly forfeited.
Pro-Israel individuals and organizations have compared the lives of Palestinians, even civilians, to those of animals. Inferior to humans.
Third parties feel obliged to choose one side or the other and condemn one group or the other.
“Which side are you on, Pastor Gregg?” I’m on the side of all God’s image-bearers pursuing life, liberty, and happiness. That being said, I hold those who initiate and instigate violence to a different standard of responsibility and justice.*
We are still all too easily seduced into the Old Testament thinking. What are we to do? I find myself helped by Jesus when substituting the word “Palestinian” for “Samaritan” in the Gospels. I find myself thinking of Jesus who interacted so winsomely with a Palestinian woman in John 4. I find myself thinking of Jesus’s parable about the good Palestinian in Luke 10. These two brief Gospel scenes offer more than enough to guide our hearts, minds, and even our politics in the New Testament world that beckons toward a better Kingdom.
When will we learn and believe it?
– Pastor Gregg
*If the Arabs/Palestinians lay down their arms, there would be no more war.
But if Israel lays down its weapons, there would be no more Israel. – Golda Meir