Thursday, October 18, 2007

Christians and Our Love of War Rhetoric

A while back, I penned a few thoughts about one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller. If you've never read any of his work, I recommend him. I realized the other day, that I've never put anything about him on this blog, so I thought I would share it with my GH readers. I think you will see why I appreciate him so much.

So I've been reading and rereading the same books since Christmas. I went to the bookstore intending to perhaps pick up some good books for my family as gifts. And I found some really good books, books that excited me, books that would have made excellent gifts. But I always run into the same dilemma when I go to buy books for people; I worry that they will read some sort of implication into the gift.

If I buy my brother a book about getting closer to God, should he think that I have perceived some sort of problem? If I buy my mother a book on prayer, will she think that I've been timing her morning devotionals….and they are a little shorter than they should be, at least for any real woman of God? Of course, my family is probably not that paranoid, or sensitive, or petty. But since I am prone to being paranoid, sensitive, and petty; it is easy for me to imagine others being so. I can't buy people Christian books, I always feel like I'm handing them a diet book. I might as well just save the $18.95 and tell them that they're fat.

So I bought the books for myself. I always do. And I was right, they have been amazing. I bought one by Brennan Manning, author of the "Ragamuffin Gospel" and one by Donald Miller, author of "Blue Like Jazz." If you haven't read "The Ragamuffin Gospel, " you really are doing yourself a disservice. They should make anyone that wants to call themselves a Christian, read it before they are ever allowed to claim any such thing. I also recommend "Blue Like Jazz," but I like the book after it much better. So much so, that I have decided to share an excerpt.

The following is from Donald Miller's "Searching for God Knows What." It really is worth owning, and hopefully this small portion will encourage you to do so. This portion if from Chapter 12: Morality. This is not the beginning of the chapter, I'm actually picking the text up as Miller is reflecting on a rather frustrating interview with a conservative, Christian talk-show host:

…..To be honest, I think most Christians, and this guy was definitely a Christian, want to love people and obey God but feel they have to wage a culture war. But this isn't the case at all. Remember, we are not elbowing for power in the lifeboat. God's kingdom isn't here on earth. And I believe you will find Jesus in the hearts of even the most militant Christians, moving them to love people and it is only their egos, and the voice of Satan, that cause them to demean the lost. What we must do in these instances is listen to our consciences and allow Scripture to instruct us about morality and methodology, not just morality.

Paul was deceived when he persecuted Christians, thinking he was doing it to serve God, but God went to him, blinded him, and corrected his thinking. After this, Paul loved the people he had previously hated; he began to take the message of forgiveness to Jews and to Gentiles, to male and to female, to pagans and prostitutes. At no point does he waste his time lobbying government for a moral agenda. Nobody in Scripture who knew and followed Jesus wasted their time with any of this; they built the church, they loved people.

Once Paul switched positions, many people tried to kill him for talking about Jesus, but he never lifted a fist; he never declared war. In fact, in Athens, he was so appreciated by pagans who worshipped false idols, they invited him to speak about Jesus in an open forum. In America, this no longer happens. We are in the margins of society and so we have our own radio stations and television stations and bookstores. Our formulaic, propositional, lifeboat-territorial methodology has crippled the kingdom of God We can learn a great deal from the Apostles. Paul would go as far as to compliment the men of Athens, calling them "spiritual men" and quoting their poetry, then telling them the God he knew was better for them, larger, stronger and more alive than any of the stone idols they bowed down to. And many of the people in the audience followed him and had more and more questions. This would not have happened if Paul had labeled them as pagans and attacked them.

A moral message, a message of "us" versus "them," overflowing in war rhetoric, never hindered the early message of grace, of repentance towards dead works and immorality in exchange for a love relationship with Christ. War rhetoric against people is not the methodology, not the sort of communication that came out of the mouth of Jesus or the mouths of any of His followers. In fact, even today, moralists who use war rhetoric will speak of right and wrong, and even some vague and angry god, but never Jesus. Listen closely, and I assure you, they will not talk about Jesus.

In my opinion, if you hate someone because they are different from you, you'd best get on your knees and repent until you can say you love them, until you have gotten your soul right with Christ.

I can't say this clearly enough: if we are preaching morality without Christ, and using war rhetoric to communicate a battle mentality, we are fighting on Satan's side. This battle we are in is a battle against the principalities of darkness, not against people who are different from us. In war, you shoot the enemy, not the hostage.


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