Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chewing on the Word - Forgiveness

I recently had to wiki "Bush Doctrine." I, like Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin, wasn't exactly sure what it meant, although I had a distinct feeling it had something to do with watching bombs explode in Baghdad and going to 'war' against terrorism. The wiki article cleans up the lingo, but I wasn't far off base.

This post may be more political than I intend, but I've been chewing on something all week, particularly relating to Sarah Palin and her appeal to the religious right within the Republican Party. I recently read that we Christians are to "love our enemies," (I think that's in the Bible.) And we, as a nation, are 'at war' with our enemies, to the point where saying you're going to "talk" to them makes you naive in matters of foreign policy.

And now we have this messy saying from Matthew 18:21ff. that we are supposed to forgive someone not seven times, but seventy-seven times, when they sin against us. Most of us have a hard enough time with ONE time, let alone seven...and seventy-seven? Jesus must be crazy!

And I think he is crazy–crazy with grace; crazy with compassion; crazy enough to let people like you and me into the party. I'm just wondering if we've been 'crazy enough' for the cause of peace in the midst of war?


Doug Hagler said...

Large swathes of American seem totally incapable of even considering:

What do we do with 9/11 when we are called to love our enemies and forgive those who injure us seven times seven?

I think about this every time the dread day comes around again, or when I hear about or wars and their "progress" (that is, the same number of Iraqi or Afghanistani dead with perhaps fewer American dead now and then) or when I hear the President, who is supposedly a religious guy, talk about our enemies.

There is no Jesus in any of it. At all. If there was, there'd be such an uproar. Can we even imagine? It would shake the foundations. The sky would fall. Everything would have to change, if somehow we found the courage to let Jesus get even his foot in the door of our national life.

Stushie said...

That's why there is a clear disticntion between Church and State. You can't run a government on religious lines unless you want us to be under shariah.

How would you also interpret these verses from Christ?

Matt 10:34-35

34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword .

Luke 22:36

36 He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword , sell your cloak and buy one.

paulboal said...

Matt 10:34-35
The way I read the chapter about Jesus sending the disciples out into the world has nothing to do with violence or war. The chapter seems to be about the fact that the disciples have to realize they have a hard road ahead of them. Their work isn't about making everyone happy-go-lucky. Jesus' message to them is that this is going to be hard work. Not everyone will agree with the message that you bring. Families will split with each other. In the chapter he doesn't tell the disciples, "if people don't agree with you, take my message to them with the sword." He says "When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another."[23] In 17-20 Jesus says that when you're arrested, don't worry about what to say, the Spirit will speak to you. He doesn't say "attack them with the sword." I don't think Jesus suggests in that chapter anywhere that WE are to pick up a sword and cut a way for him into the hearts of others.

I'm not sure exactly how to interpret that section of Luke, historically. I'm not a biblical scholar. Again, it doesn't seem to me like Jesus is making a call to arms here. This is the story right before the betrayal and arrest. I think what Jesus is saying is that people are coming for me and you'd don't want to get caught up in this. In order to be fulfilled, I have to be nailed up on that cross. But I'll need enough protection to keep from just getting killed on the spot by an over zealous officer. When Jesus is arrested, and they use those swords to cut off a priest's ear -- Jesus tells them to stop. He chastises the priests and guards for coming to the rebellion with swords and clubs... making it an hour "when darkness reigns."

Again. I don't hear a call to arms.

I agree with you distinct between "Church" and "State." I don't think that invalidates the universal nature of the message to love your neighbor and forgive your enemy.

Stushie said...

Great response, Paul. I appreciate you giving this some serious thought. Personally, I think that when Christ told his disciples to buy swords, He was talking about defending themselves and their families.

Another point: I may forgive my enemy, but am I expected to turn the other cheek all of the time? I think Bonhoeffer wrestled with this the most in recent times.

Again, sometimes the Church is called to be outraged and put on the offensive. When South African Christians wrote the Belhar Confession, they were going to war against the wickedness of apartheid. They could no longer stomach the appeasement of the national church.

Great post. Lots of food for thought for our sermons tomorrow.

Sarahlynn said...

"am I expected to turn the other cheek all of the time?"

I'd say yes. Given the historical context, turning the other cheek was obviously a call to civil disobedience, not an enjoinder to roll over and play dead, or to quietly take whatever is dished out.

Jesus teaches us to stand up to authority, to make the hard decisions, to do what is right. But I don't see a call to violence anywhere in there.

Stushie said...

Indignation and protest, defence and assertiveness are not necessarily violent, Sarahlynn, but they are part of our Christian and Presbyterian heritage.

The Scottish Covenanters of the infamous Killing Times in my birth country is a case in point. Yes, violence begets violence, but sometimes appeasement begets tyrranny and slavery.

Sarahlynn said...

We're in complete agreement regarding your first sentence, there.

With regard to the third/last sentence, however, I see a huge number of options between "appeasement" and "violence."

(I don't presume to suggest a better process by which the Protestant Reformation might have come to Scotland. Horrible, horrible times.)

But getting back to Doug's original comment, I find it troublesome when we can call a war "God's will" but not also talk about this passage from Matthew and how it might apply. There seems a very artificial separation there: church is fine in government when we agree, but otherwise . . .