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.
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.”
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.”
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.