Thursday, July 13, 2006

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

The natural conclusion is of course, "no one," and it's pretty easy to see why.

But I'd like to look at the question a bit differently, because that's not the real question. The real question for Christians is "Lord, what would you have me do?"

Also, I don't like the self-righteous sneer embedded in the question asked the first way.

The people closest to Jesus were remarkable for their repeated inability to anticipate what He was going to do and say. This alone should give us pause when making claims of knowing what Jesus would have us do. If Peter and John couldn't figure Him out until much later and after much reflection, then who are you? I make no claim that random or always counterintuitve actions are what Christ wants from us, only that the simple answers sometimes blow up in our faces when contemplating Our Lord. Jesus fed the multitudes and quite sternly admonished the rich to give. But he also criticized Judas for wanting to give money to the poor in a particular way at a particular time. Jesus went with complete nonviolence to His death - almost immediately after beating the moneylenders out of the Temple.

Almost every word that comes out of His mouth is a surprize, in fact. Not what we expected. Jesus, do you want to eat? "I have food of which you know not." "Be perfect." "Whose face is on the coin?"

These things are understandable and explainable in their context, and under the instruction of the Holy Spirit, but they are emphatically not our first guesses of what He would do.

Jesus frequently turned a general question back to an individual answer. "You must be born again" He says to Nicodemus. He admonished the rich young ruler "Sell all your goods and give the money to the poor." When the Pharisees tried to trap Him, He usually told them something about themselves and their own thoughts.

So my first guess is that Jesus might tell many of us, asking about war in Israel, war in Iraq, threats from North Korea "That is not for you to know. You have other work to concern yourself with." Which is hardly what any of us want to hear. Jesus is far more likely to tell us "What happens in the world is unimportant" than "I forbid war." This is reflected in the actions of the first few centuries of the church, when Christians were (much) more likely to see themselves as avoiding the wars of governments because they were called to a higher goal than to preach pacifism. We should not impose our way of seeing things on them.

Jesus didn't go up to any of the rulers of the age and tell them what they should be doing. John the Baptist did, but here's the thing: John didn't give political condemnation, he gave condemnation for the individual acts of Herod. Those personal sins don't appear to have had much to do with any of the political decisions of the age. In the context of oppression, the Baptist finds it more important that the ruler of the people be personally pure than that he act in some political fashion. And Jesus clearly approves generally of the actions of His cousin John.

This was a common OT theme. God seems exceedingly overconcerned with the personal piety of Moses and his own individual sins. The sins of Saul, David, and Solomon are believed to affect the entire nation somehow, though the Scriptures are not very clear exactly how that is.

When we pray for our leaders, we usually go for some variation of praying that they have wisdom. Perhaps we would do better to pray for the personal actions of presidents, Senators, military commanders, that they be righteous in their family and business dealings. How will that help? I dunno, but God seems to like it. He mentions it often.

When Jesus speaks to a Roman soldier, He doesn't hint that maybe the man would find spirituality easier in another profession. He tells him how to do his job justly. Go figure. On the other hand, Christ is clear, even emphatic about not hitting back when attacked. On the other other hand His disciples are still carrying swords around three years into the ministry of the Lord.

It is just to easy to use a phrase like "Prince of Peace," and believe we know what we are talking about while putting an entirely modern spin on the word "peace."

Beware the false dichotomies in these questions. "Oh, so you think Jesus would nuke the Iranians then?" "Are you saying that Jesus wants us all to spend more time making money?"

No, I'm just saying it's never simple, and always requires prayer - sometimes an agony of prayer if you really want the True Answer. Don't even listen to those who would make it simple.


Anonymous said...

It seems like a lot of your posts are based on posts from other blogs, either by the blogger or someone in the comments section. It would be nice if you could somehow link back to those original items.

jw said...

avi: You've said a mouthfull here.

Jesus aimed for the long term and the personal. Very few people seem able to see that aim.

katje said...

Once again, a good way of reminding us that it's not for us to know (or assert we know) God's great plan.

My husband has a belief that Jesus was (in his own way) a sort of Zen master. An idea that doesn't seem so far out when you realize that many of the things he says in the Bible sound an awful lot like koans.

Just another proof that Jesus can indeed be all things to all people.

Anonymous said...


"Who Would Jesus Bomb?"

Sorry, but I'm not Jesus, I'm just a thief.

Try the next cross down.


Steve Burri said...

Many people make a false distinction between the Old Testament God of judgment with the New Testament God of love.

Who would Jesus bomb? The implication is that it would be no one. He has become a promiscuous lover, accepting all human activity without judgment. As bilgeman well states, "Try the next cross down." The Old Testament God of judgment is a lovable, harmless little fuzzball compared to the New Testament God of love found in the Book of Revelation.

As an individual, God has not ordained me to bomb anyone or execute justice upon a murderer or child molester. He has, however, ordained the institution of civil government to handle these matters. He has also ordained the family and His Church with authority in other areas. Attempting to usurp the authority that God has ordained to another is great error that is equivalent to usurping God's authority.

David Foster said...

I see the "who would Jesus bomb?" sticker in my neighborhood frequently, usually on vehicles which are quite expensive. I'm not a Christian, but the response I would give these people would be: "Probably nobody..I think there was something about his kingdom not being of this world. But for the same reason, I also doubt that he would have focused his attention on becoming senior partner at the law firm, or gaining a tenured professorship, or hitting it big on the market, or doing whatever it was you did to gain your financial position."

GM Roper said...

AVI, this is one of the most profound posts I've ever read. Thanks.

newton said...

Didn't Jesus say that he didn't come to this world to bring peace, but a sword? (Matthew 10:34)

Anonymous said...

The Gospels repeatedly show a particular rhetoric of response, either Zenlike "look to yourselves" or an immediate refocusing action. Jesus "breaks the frame" of tendentious questions, and absolutely refuses to be bound by the false incriminating dilemma.

Who did sin, this man, or his parents?

Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

He wasn't very polite to those that tried to spring those traps, either.

Texas Bankruptcy Nerd said...

A thought-provoking post. You know your OT / NT facts.

Anonymous said...

Just a question: why haven't there been any buddhist conquerors? Ashoka stopped when he became a buddhist, and the Japanese junta supressed the monasteries and amped up "state shinto." We've killed in the name o' christ (why drag that poor man into our fights?) and while I'm typing this some fool kid is throwing an RPG at some other fool kid because both of them are doing god's work for him. Yet who gets blown up for buddha?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Not only is it rare in history for buddhists to go to war, because of their basically pacifistic, enduring approach, it is also rare for them to stand up against any injustice whatsoever.

See China, for example.

copithorne said...

Moral accountability knocking?

Up, up and away in the hot air balloon!


Wow! It's so beautiful! From up here people look like ants! Who's to say really if there is right and wrong. Who's to say if it is right or wrong to step on those tiny things? What is right and wrong anyway?

[Later, when we return to earth, we'll criticize others for "moral relativism."]

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Nice try, copi. Yes, relativism tries to disguise itself as complexity, because it is looking for sheep's clothing.

But that's the point. Complexity is sheep's clothing. Real moral decisions are sometimes complicated, bedcause this is a fallen world.

copithorne said...

Moral reasoning is complicated? This is the message you get from Jesus Christ?

Jesus says: Except you become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

I say:

Starting wars is wrong.

Stealing money from children is wrong.

So simple, really. This can only be complicated if you deliberately confuse yourself with a retreat into abstraction.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well, in the end Copithorne, perhaps Jesus will tell you in heaven that you were right and all the other Christians were wrong, making excuses for their poor morality. At present, however, I will defer to such as Luther, Calvin, Augustine, and Aquinas, who seemed to think that the Scriptures required considerable commentary. Hey, they could be wrong, but I'm going to guess they knew more than I do.

james said...

It really is the wrong question, because one possible answer is Pompeii.

Anonymous said...

Jesus literally bombed Soddom and Gomorrah. We are not told not to defend ourselves from physical attack. The 'turn the other cheek' is in regards to insults, not assults.

Goverments are appointed to punish the wicked, protect its citizens and ensure justice