Birth pains

Some of my readers have recently condemned me as a Christian for posting the YouTube video entitled Dear Mr. Obama. These are people who believe that the Iraq war was a huge mistake and want our troops pulled home now. They support Obama because he did not support the war. They challenged me to think about what Jesus would have done if he was here in this time, in this place.

What would Jesus do?

First of all, the Lord chose the exact time and place for Jesus to be revealed. He came at a time when the Jews were under oppression. They were essentially slaves to the Roman empire. Many Jews believed that the Messiah would be a military leader who would overthrow the Roman government and restore the Jewish nation.

This was also a time when people followed the letter of the law but did not follow it with their hearts. Jesus rebuked them and bucked the conventions when he healed (worked) on the Sabbath and allowed the disciples to glean grain on the Sabbath. He was showing by example that the heart of the matter is what concerns the Lord.

The famous Sermon on the Mount is where I looked today to discern what perhaps Jesus would do in these times…but I find it important to note that Jesus IS here in these times. His spirit lives in each of us who cling to Him in faith. He is here in these times, and the things he taught the crowds back then still apply to today.

The central question these people are asking is: would Jesus have invaded Iraq? I think the simple answer is that Jesus would not have allowed himself to be in place as a world ruler who makes earthly decisions such as the appropriateness of war. Why? He had ample opportunity to lead an uprising among the Jews. There were people willing to lay their lives on the line, willing to crown him King of the Jews. He could have called down fire from heaven to strike the enemies who opposed him. He could have grabbed the reins of control (Satan even offered it to him…offered him the world during the 40 days of temptation)…but he did not. He could have turned the Roman thugs who were flogging him mercilessly into pillars of salt, but he did not. As spikes were being driven into his hands and his feet, he could have summoned a host of angels to come to his defense, but he did not. The reason he did not is because his eyes were on a spiritual realm that we cannot see but which exists nonetheless. If he had assumed control, then God’s plan to allow Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins would have been foiled. Jesus knew God’s plan in advance. He warned his disciples what was about to happen. He agonized over the pain he was about to experience, but he walked that path anyway. Why? Because it was God’s will that he do so.

Jesus’ decision to put himself under God’s authority, to refuse the people’s will of him as their king instead of God’s will of him as their savior, can’t be compared to President Bush’s decision to send our soldiers to Iraq. President Bush is in charge of a nation and should be compared to other national rulers — to compare him or any other earthly ruler to the Lord and to expect them to be perfect, as the Lord is perfect, is unfair.

The intelligence that Bush and his advisers had at the time must have been quite credible. I don’t believe that President Bush sat in the Oval Office with Dick Cheney and schemed ways to overtake other nations and make them American colonies. I wasn’t there at that intelligence briefing. Our nation had been attacked by terrorists, and Bush decided to go on the offense when Saddam refused to play by the rules. Even Democrats supported the path initially. We know for a fact that he did have WMD because he used them on his own people.

Compare Bush to Roman rulers of old. Did he send the army into Mexico and turn it into an American colony, forcing the American constitution on Mexican citizens and making them slaves? Do American soldiers patrol the streets of France, demanding that French citizens carry their heavy equipment loads for them? That’s what the Romans required of the Jews.

And that brings us to the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is teaching a large crowd of people. He sat at the top of a mountain and began amazing the people with his words. It is very important to note that Jesus started off the meat of his sermon by making sure people understood that his words and God’s words as given to Moses and the prophets were not separate entities.

Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.
Matthew 5:17-18

So we see that Jesus came to accomplish, in the flesh, the purpose of God’s law. In other words, he came to show us all how it’s done, by the Master himself.

I think it is very important to recognize the venue. Is he speaking to the lawmakers of Rome? Is he speaking in the courts? In the temple? No. He is on a hillside, talking personally with people who came to listen, teaching those who wanted to learn. He is not trying to draft legislation. Instead, he’s trying to spark life into the hearts of those who listen.

The hard-hearted Jews were misusing the law in order to take the law into their own hands. They were taking revenge on those who wronged them instead of relying on the courts — provided for in God’s law — to settle the differences. It’s similar to the way gangs dispense “justice” on the streets of America today. If a member is killed by a rival gang, then the members go after the rival gang and kill one of theirs. The problem is, the “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law was never intended for individual people to do to get revenge. It was intended as a guideline for judges, sitting in a court of law, to follow. In Deuteronomy 19, we see this “eye for an eye” concept in its entirety:

If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

In context, the eye for eye concept was a specific guideline for a specific type of crime: malicious false testimony. In Jesus’ day, as in today, Jews were using this scripture as justification for all sorts of crimes against each other. Jesus set them, and us, straight, when, while sitting on a mountainside before a huge crowd of people, he said :

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[g] But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Matthew 5:38-42

I submit that this teaching from Jesus applies to each person individually. He was not speaking to the judges or the lawmakers. He was speaking then, and now, to the hard-hearted people who found themselves oppressed. He was speaking to people who were indignant because they were forced to carry a soldier’s burdens for one mile when so ordered. Rather than rising up and demanding that they had a “right” to walk through their own city without having to stop and carry a foreign soldier’s backpack…Jesus told them to go ahead and walk TWO miles. It’s where we get the saying, “go the extra mile.” Today we use that phrase when we want someone to put forth extra effort, and that’s exactly what Jesus was getting at: in personal disputes, Jesus wants us to go the extra mile, do the extra thing. I suspect that doing so helps change the hearts of all those involved.

Those who condemn our military presence in Iraq often quote from the above verse. But nowhere in that verse or in its original context are the writers speaking about the Nation of Israel or of any nation. The context is for individuals, not for nations. The Israelites themselves do not apply the original verse to their nation — in fact, God commanded them to take possession of lands and had them “utterly destroy” the inhabitants and all their possessions.

However, if we did apply the “extra mile” rule to our nation’s policies, how could we do so with the situation as it stands today in Iraq? Is it by retreating? By leaving a mess? Is it by vilifying our military and making our President out to be a murderer? Absolutely not! We can demand that our military NOT leave until they have built and re-built and made that country’s infrastructure better than it was before we arrived. We can make sure that every effort is taken to protect the lives of innocents, to expose corruption, to support the new Iraqi government. For those enemies of ours who say we only invaded because we wanted the land for ourselves…the proof will be in the pudding. Watch how this plays out. How many Vietnam lands have USA zipcodes? Are our American forces making Iraqi people copy our constitution and pay taxes to our government? If we did that, then we would be guilty of colonization. Rather, our mantra has been standing up for freedom.

Much has been written and said about our President…many people in this country hate him. In a bookstore in Austin, I saw a sticker that had a caricature of Bush wearing a Pope’s hat. The text said, “What would Jesus bomb?”

To say that image disturbed me would be an understatement. I don’t agree with everything President Bush has done, but neither do I hate him. He is a leader who has been faced with unprecedented evil. He’s made the calls that he believes are right. But he is not Jesus, and Jesus would not bomb anybody. To say otherwise only demonstrates a lack of understanding. Jesus came to deal with our hearts.

Rather than sling around hateful words and pointing fingers, Republicans and Democrats need to pray for each other:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:43-47

That’s a tough act to follow, but I believe that if we did so, God would honor us and would heal our nation. The rift running through partisan politics extends all the way down to our hearts. What would Jesus say about the Iraq War? He has already told us:

As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Birth pains. That’s what he said then as recorded in Mark 13, and it still applies today. He told us to stand firm — the Greek word for that is hypomeno, and it does not mean to retreat or pull back or be a doormat. It means to endure, to not flee or run away, to bravely and calmly bear.

Jesus, who was neither Democrat nor Republican but who came to set all the people free from their bondage to sin, is, in his words, “surely with you always, to the end of the age.” What would Jesus say? Open your Bible and find out.

9 thoughts on “Birth pains

  1. Where in the world do you get information that says there was weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Please quote a credible source for that statement. Because George Bush himself even admitted that they did not have them. For goodness sake, read your history!
    If you haven’t deleted this by now, here’s George Bush admitting that there was no WMD.

    You know, don’t even strain yourself with the decision about whether or not to post this reply. Just don’t. But please inform yourself. Regan didn’t blink when Sadam gassed the Kurds, and Rumsfeld shook his hand.

    As to the “credible intelligence”, again, read your history, not Fox news. What I hear is someone who trusts Republicans and doesn’t trust Democrats. Fine. Keep it at that. Just go ahead and say, “Democrats are baby killers” and be done with it.

  2. There WERE WMD used by Saddam on his own people. That has been reported, as you noted. I consider gas to be a WMD.

    I did not say that there were WMD. Look again. I wrote that the intelligence Bush and his advisors had AT THAT TIME was credible enough for them to make the decision to go into Iraq. I knew that Bush has admitted that they have not found any WMD.

    I read FoxNews, Google News, CNN, the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News, among others. What I hear from you is someone who distrusts anything Bush and the Republicans do or did or say. Is it so inconceivable that they thought they had credible intelligence? Even our senators and congressmen backed his decision AT THE TIME, across both parties. So that says to me that there was some kind of intelligence that convinced them.

    I happen to be married to a man who considers himself a Independent and doesn’t think the government should have any say whatsoever about “abortion rights.” And he is most definitely not a baby killer. My grandmother is a solid Democrat and yet is pro-life. The lines aren’t that black and white between the two political parties when it gets down to the moms and pops of this country.

  3. Great. I’m glad you don’t paint black and white because a lot of your statements seem like you do, especially when you quickly brought up abortion when I spoke about the deaths in Iraq.

    You are quick to criticize Obama and you certainly have that right. But you assume that Cheney and Bush had intelligence that painted Iraq as an immediate threat, and you trust them in making that judgment. That’s what I find so puzzling.

    Even when the yellowcake uranium claim in Nigeria was proven false, Bush used it as reason to go to Iraq. When 99.9% of intelligence said Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, we chose Iraq. When 14 of 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and bin Ladin was clearly behind the attacks, we go to Iraq.

    At the same time, all of the bin Ladin family living in the United States was allowed to leave without any questioning. Why is that good judgment? Why is it ok to trust Bush and be so distrustful of Obama? And why are you so pro-war when the reasons for that war were false? Why condemn Obama for that stance? Why persist that killing is such a good thing?

    I come back to that same question. If Jesus were here, do you think he would have an opinion about the war? I do. And I think he would speak out against it. He WOULD be involved. And I think you would dismiss him. That’s my point.

    I only distrust Bush and Cheney because they have such a bad record. And I think McCain is a good guy. But I also think Obama is a good guy. But he’s less likely to participate in killing innocent people.

  4. Just want to clear up that the reason I brought up abortion is b/c you had left a comment on that post of mine the same day you left this one. I got them both in my email inbox and was confused about which comment I was commenting on.

    I would NOT dismiss Jesus. My Lord knows my heart, and since He is in me, the Bible says that I will recognize Him when I see him. “Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.” (Rev 16:15) When he comes he will establish a new world in which there will be no wars! THAT is what I look forward to. “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.” (Matthew 24:6)

    Because He says so, I am not alarmed.

    Do YOU know him as your savior? Do you follow him and trust him?

    I trust those in power with an eye to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, give to God what is God’s.” I trusted Clinton when he was in power (and guess what….I voted for him the first time around). I trust my elected officials because I pray for them, and because the scripture says that the Lord turns the hearts of the kings. If Obama becomes our president, then I will trust him because I will be praying for him, despite his record of voting against the Born Alive Act and his record of voting “present” rather than allowing his yes to be yes and his no to be no.

    I have said before that I think Obama’s heart is in the right place, as is McCain’s. But neither of them or any other earthly leader would get my devotion because that goes to God. And it’s in that perspective that I try to look at things.

    Being as far from perfect as a person can get, I am not a know it all. I don’t know why we didn’t go after Saudi Arabia or why we let the family leave quietly — except perhaps because our hands are tied behind our backs with our dependence on their oil — it’s like one hand is tied behind our backs as we deal with these people because our whole economy is tied so much to oil…and that’s wrong, and I am glad that both candidates acknowledge at least that much. I don’t have all the facts, and neither do you. Both of us (unless you have top secret clearance, in which case you wouldn’t tell me if you did) have no iota of information beyond that which is reported in the media. I don’t trust the media any farther than I can throw it, and because I’m a sissy girl, that’s not very far. I don’t trust FOX or CNN or MSNBC or any of the big networks. The big media giants are run by people who want to persuade the masses to adhere to their personal ideologies, and they go for the big stories that may or may not be true. That goes for the conservatives as well as the liberals. And I speak from experience as a former journalist — articles are written and stories are told in a slant. Every story has one.

  5. My personal beliefs are just that. Would you believe me if I said I was a Christian? There are many that make that claim.

    There are so many things in the Bible that scripture can be used to argue just about any point. Deuteronomy is certainly harsh, no?

    But since you asked, I have but one commandment that I try to keep. When I have mastered that, I can move to others. “This I command you, that you love one another.”

    To me, there is no other place to start. And that’s why I see war as the opposite of that commandment.

    I also think it is a cop-out when people hide behind scripture or dismiss knowledge for faith.

    As a society, choosing to go to war was a failure. But as individuals, condoning this war, or any war, is a failure to heed the strongest commandment – to love each other.

  6. If you were a Christian I would take your criticism more than with a grain of salt because the scriptures tell Christians to admonish each other and to hold each other accountable. If you are not a Christian, then I would encourage you and tell you that you do not have to count out the commandments you keep as if you were keeping score. Jesus accepts you just the way you are. He accepts those of us who vote and those of us who don’t. He attaches no strings to our faith except that we do our best to follow him. His message, although of love, was not one of peace. If you look, you’ll find that many times Jesus predicted that those of us who love him will be persecuted, cursed, arrested, stoned, even killed.

    I, too, try to keep the command to love one another, and I try to do so in actions. Your last sentence, that as individuals condoning this war, or any war, is a failure to heed the commandment to love each other — what about WWII? Was it wrong for us to fight back and keep Hitler from exterminating the Jews? Was that not love for them that made us step up and fight? What about the Civil War? Was that war, born out of love for all people in a time when those who had black skin were seen as property, not citizens — was that war not showing love to them?

    In Matthew 10:14, Jesus instructs those he sent out to tell of his mission to be both wise and innocent:
    “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town…I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

    Because God’s word is my path, I use it to back up my statements. I am not hiding, and it is not a cop-out. My faith makes up who I am as a person and underlies everything I do. I can’t separate God from knowledge because God IS knowledge. He created it.

  7. You mentioned Hitler. He claimed he was a Christian and was doing the Lord’s work.

    Labels can be misleading. It doesn’t matter what I claim.

    And actually, yes, I don’t believe that wars are/were necessary. None of them were good. And I will never agree that dropping bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were good. Does the end justify the means?

    That doesn’t believe that there will be no more wars. I am sickened by the daily loss of life in Iraq. It’s wrong. If you could see the images, you might agree.

    Again, why is it good to plunder our resources for killing yet not use our resources to help (provide charity, etc.)?

    I’m still not clear on why you feel comfortable mocking Obama (or anyone, really) because he says that the war was/is wrong?

  8. I think it’s more the fact that that soldier didn’t like anyone telling him that the loss of his leg was for a mistake. There is SOME good that has come out of the Iraq mess. I posted that boy’s video message because he is entitled to his opinion. He’s more than earned it….just as my father, who obeyed the draft, earned his opinion. He obeyed even though he didn’t personally agree, but the point was, he was obedient. He served his country. And then people spit on him when he got back. That is why I posted the video that started this burst of comments from you. I posted it for my dad, and for that boy who lost his leg, and for Senator McCain who can’t even type on a keyboard due to injuries he suffered in the service of his country. I am not mocking Obama, and neither was that boy in the video. He was speaking what he knew.

    Lots of people are claiming to be Muslims yet are killing girls because they dare seek an annulment of their forced marriage from when they were 9 years old. Honor killings, I think they call it. Lots of people claim to be Christians but aren’t. Jesus said you will know them by their fruit. Hitler’s “fruit” obviously wasn’t Christian. I don’t think our government knew exactly what the bomb would do to living people. If they knew, they wouldn’t have used it as they did. But I am glad that Hitler was stopped and that the extermination of a nation was stopped. And I am glad to be an American rather than a Spanish or English or French citizen. And I’m very, very glad that slavery is no longer around. If it were not for the Civil War, there’s a good chance I would be a slave right now.

    If your neighbors were at your house, and a man walked in and killed them all, would you take action and fight back? Or would you let you and your family die?

    We do use our country’s resources to help and provide charity. Look at the $$ we spend on AIDS, on food, on clean drinking water not just in our own country, but in others. We aren’t perfect as a nation, but we are working on getting better.

    Are you seeking to change my mind? What is your goal? Being a Christian is not merely a label for me. It defines who I am. I don’t see how it “doesn’t matter” what you claim to be. Either you claim Christ as Lord, or you don’t. Either you believe God, or you believe something else. Everyone believes something.

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