Tag Archives: Peacemaker

God’s People, part 66: Total War

Read 2 Chronicles 13:1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

totalwarPart 66: Total War. One of my favorite games ever was a game called Medieval: Total War, which was a turn-based, strategy and real-time tactics computer game developed by Creative Assembly and distributed by Activision. Released in North America on August 19, 2002, I was fully immersed in that game for years until it no longer ran on the newer Windows platforms. I loved it because I love the Medieval period and the game, for me, was like time traveling back to that period with all its historical glory.

The premise of the game is this: following picking which “faction” one is going to be (e.g. Bittania, Spain, France, Holy Roman Empire, etc.), one works to build up one’s fortresses, troops, and kingdom/empire. One can set taxes and things like that; however, it is also important to keep one’s people happy, otherwise, revolts can and will outbreak. As one plays the game, time passes and historical events (e.g. the plague epidemic, the emergence of the Golden Horde, etc.) take place at in the correct chronological and historical order.

What this all amounts to is, as the title suggests, total war! One must grow their armies, protect their kingdoms and expand their empires through warring with other kingdoms and empires around them. When portions of one’s empire revolt and split off, vendettas occur and one builds up enough troops to go in and conquer the land back! This sort of thing is exactly what happened to Judah when Israel split off from them. Judah kept trying to reclaim Israel through total and constant war.

Thus, we begin to get the picture of how the sin of David with Bathsheba really spun out of control generations later. Had David not seduced and raped Bathsheba, had he not murdered Uriah the Hittite, had he not had Solomon as a son, he would not have been able to put Solomon as his heir. That is important because it was the act of putting Solomon as his heir that caused division in David’s family, that caused Solomon to kill off all of his political opponents, and caused enemies of Solomon to rally and have their day of independence following the death of the king. David’s one selfish act of sexual assault caused his entire Kingdom to divide and fall into a perpetual state of total war.

Perhaps it is too simple to state that it was just one of David’s sins; however, the fact of the matter is that David’s success became David’s failure and, had he followed the LORD instead of his own impulses, things might have been different. Even if others following him became corrupt, it would not have been a result of his own actions. Instead of being united in peace under God, the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah became separate, warring, enemies looking to shed each other’s blood any chance they could to dominate, subdue and lord their power over the other.

We can see this in our own nations and kingdoms today. Different time, same old story. The question for us becomes this: are we going to be a people who follow our leaders into a divide and conquer mentality, or are we going to follow the Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ, in being peacemakers in hostile territories? On our own, we will inevitably pick the former option for that is the result of our sinful, human nature; however, if we open our hearts to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to work within us, then all things (including peacemaking) are possible. Let us choose Christ, who is the Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords, and the King of kings.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be a peacemaker among warmongers, so that I may shine the truth of your light into the darkness. Amen.

Understanding Paul, part 6

Read Romans 15:22-33; Acts 21-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 CEB).

Decapitación_de_San_Pablo_-_Simonet_-_1887To sum up this series, I think it is beyond doubt that Paul is the most influential theologian in the history of Christianity. As this series has attempted to show, much of the problems that Christians run into when it comes to interpreting Paul arise directly because Paul is interpreted as a “Christian” theologian. Yet, the truth of the matter is that, while he was an Apostle of the Risen Christ, the Apostle Paul was NOT a Christian but a Jewish theologian. He just happened to subscribe to the Jewish sect known as “the Way” and believed that Jesus had called him to preach the Good News of an open Jewish covenant, through Christ, to all the Gentile world.

Throughout the centuries and especially in Christianity Today, Paul has become a conservative icon of the church and a guardian of the faith. Thus, his words and writings have been used to uphold church doctrine and dogma in support of slavery, against women clergy, and for the definition of marriage between a man and a woman. In fact, the Apostle Paul’s words on marriage are also the foundation of the Roman Catholic doctrine on clerical celibacy. For those supporting such doctrines and positions, Paul’s words have become a rallying cry; however, by and large the Apostle Paul’s writings have divided more people than they have united. While those seeking to keep things as the perceive they’ve always been find Paul to be their champion, others who are frustrated by the Church’s resistance to change find Paul to be irritating at best and downright egregious at worst.

All of this division, all of this animosity, all of this tension coming from a man who literally spent his life trying to unite people in Christ Jesus. While Paul was Jewish and firmly believed that Jesus was the JEWISH MESSIAH, he also firmly believed that this Christ, through his death and resurrection, had opened up the Jewish covenant to all Gentiles, through their faith in Jesus Christ. This set him at odds with both the Jerusalem church, as well as with the majority of Jewish people as a whole. Yet, rather than abandon one side for the other, Paul spent the rest of his shortened life and ministry trying to make peace with all parties and he tried to unite them in the grace, peace and love of the Risen Christ.

Throughout his ministry, Paul collected money from his Gentile church communities in order that he might bring a peace offering and financial support for the church in Jerusalem. In Romans 15 he wrote to the church community in Rome to pray not only that he be rescued from those who don’t believe in Judea, but that the leaders of the church in Jerusalem (e.g. Jesus brother, James, among others) find his monetary gift to be acceptable. We also learn, in Acts 21, that Paul’s worries were founded as the church wanted him to prove he was a committed Jew by going to the Temple and going through a purification ritual with his fellow Gentile travelers. In complying with them to solidify the unity he was seeking, Paul sealed his own fate, was arrested by the Temple guards, was sent to Rome and was, eventually, martyred.

Paul literally died in order to bring unity to an already divided church. He was not the conservative icon of the church in his day, but a progressive (to use today’s language) visionary of an INCLUSIVE church. He believed and died for a church that would INCLUDE all people who share faith in Jesus Christ. He strived for a church that would live in LOVE and live out Christ’s commandment for us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Paul died to witness to his belief that we “all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 5:28). This, for Paul, was the Gospel message and it should be the message that we, too, embrace as the Gospel Message.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Talent perceives differences; genius, unity.” – William Butler Yeats

PRAYER
Lord, build me into a peacemaker. Even as I hold firm to my convictions, keep me convicted to bear your grace in all things. Amen.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Quarrels

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“A hot-tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them.” (Proverbs 15:18 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

FieryQWORKS OF THE FLESH: Quarrels. I remember when growing up as a boy who had a younger sister. My sister and I were only two years apart and, for the most part, we were really close in our relationship. We did a ton of things together. We would play in the yard, we would ride our bikes, and when push came to shove we defended one another. With that said, like most siblings, when we got into a quarrel with one another, we really got into it! We knew each other so well, that we knew how to push each other’s buttons. Our love, in those moments, grew into bitter animosity. You know the old adage, “the best of friends make the worst of enemies.”

Well, my sister and I were never enemies…thanks be to God. With that said, there were moments where we really quarreled with each other. We would go back and forth, delivering insult for insult, and we would drive our parents crazy with it. All my parents wanted was for us to get along and to be peacemakers…and by that I don’t mean becoming a Colt .45. Yet our words would go back and forth and the bullets shot from our mouths would often cause more hurt than either of us realized. What’s more, often these quarrels would be over the most trivial and mundane things (e.g., whose turn it was to watch TV or what music we would listen to on the radio).

What’s sad is that, while it is natural for children to quarrel with one another, the quarreling doesn’t end when children grow into adults. Many families are split down the middle over quarreling, and that holds true for church families. In the church, more time is spent on quarreling than on worship and mission combined. We find ourselves so ready to quarrel with the people “we’ve always disagreed with” that we’ll disagree on just about anything in order to keep that quarrel going. We may not think of ourselves as being that way, and we may not consciously realize we are behaving that way, but in all honesty that is the reality of it.

Like an exasperated parent, God is wanting us to stop quarreling, but we are often too busy quarreling to stop and listen to God, let alone to stop and listen to one another. Pride is at the root of quarreling, for neither side wants to give in or give up for fear of showing weakness in such humility. Often we are too blinded by our own opinions on things that we cannot even entertain anyone else’s opinion; thus, we shut the other out and quarrel with them. Again, God is calling us to stop quarreling. God is calling us to be peacemakers. It is certainly okay to put forward our opinion on things; however, it is not okay to do so at the expense of everyone else. It is okay to have a voice, but it is not okay to shut the voices of others out. Often times, our quarrelsome tendency will intimidate people to the point that they remain silent to avoid conflict. Let us stop with the quarreling and join Paul in his quest to serve God by being peacemakers and seeking harmony.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” – Winston Churchill

PRAYER
Lord, quell the pride within us and transform us into your peacemakers. Amen.