Which do you reach for when you face danger? What do you think about Christians raising the sword? As a nation? For protecting your family?
What does it mean to love your enemies as you follow the Prince of Peace?
I see my hypocrisy best in others. I see their faults, and – when I’m lucky – catch a glimpse of me in the mirror. The hard part is staying aware that it’s all the same shit – that their faults aren’t worse than mine, just different. Pride tends to let me excuse my own.
I’m furious with a friend right now. I care about this person, which is why their deception hurts as deeply as it does. Naturally, I feel my anger is just. I have reason to be angry.
Until I stop and look at the bigger picture. Until I even up the ledger with my own debts, faults and weakness. Then I don’t have quite as much maneuvering room for my slick and shiny prosecution. Reminds me of that passage about pointing out a speck in a brothers eye while a log sticks out of my own. (Mt 7:1-5)
Now I have to consider forgiveness. I don’t want to do that. My anger is far too justified…except that I need to be forgiven too. Maybe not now, but trust me, I’ll need it soon enough. If I haven’t screwed up yet, the day ain’t done.
That same passage talks about how God judges us the same way we judge others. I better slow down and look at that again, maybe even pray about what that means. Taken at face value, I’d say that a whole lot of people are crying “Lord, Lord” but aren’t doing the work of our Father in Heaven. (Mt 7:21-23)
I’d also say that I better be forgiving.
Cold wind cut across the park. Hungry people shoved their hands deeper into their pockets and tucked their chins into their collars. Numb feet were stomped to bring feeling back. The hot coffee quickly ran out.
The prince walked to his carriage and pulled out a thick, coarse shirt for a young man wearing nothing but a simple light shirt. When he returned to the park, he found the man standing in line for warm food. It had been a few months since they had last spoken.
A small smile was all the prince received when he warmly greeted the man. They briefly exchanged pleasantries, and the prince asked where the man had been. “Back in jail?” he joked.
“The hospital” came the reply.
The prince was not surprised. “Epilepsy or diabetes?” he asked.
The prince started to check in on the man regularly. He went out of his way to find him. If there was rain or high winds the prince would be up early the next day to go find the man. Soon the prince was picking the man up and bringing him to his home.
The days became colder, and the cold lasted longer. The man stayed at the prince’s house longer each visit. Then came the 13th of December.
The prince’s family baked a cake. His youngest daughter went with him to find the man. But the man was not to be found. The prince called the jailer and the physician. Neither had the man. They went all over town asking for the man. He was gone.
Unable to find him after hours of searching, the prince and his daughter went home and gave the cake to a sickly young mother – alone – caring for her sickly young child.
As darkness fell the prince build a fire and prepared to host his closest friends and family for dinner and study. However his youngest daughter insisted they travel once more to look for the man. The prince could not deny her.
After more searching on foot and by carriage – and already late for dinner – they gave up. Suddenly the prince stopped and jumped from the carriage. The man was sitting on the side of the road, sipping from a paper sack – alone.
Rushing home, the prince lit the fire while his wife went to buy a cake. Dinner was served, the Words of Life were contemplated and – with great love – cake was forced upon the diabetic man.
But the evening was complete when the youngest daughter spoke to the prince with grave concern.
“Daddy, can the man spend the night with us? No one should be alone on their birthday.”
The prince did not accept that he was a prince. He was blind, and had decided the world was beautiful and he was ugly. He did not act like a prince, unable to believe that anyone as flawed as himself could be royalty.
Soon enough he walked away from the Kingdom in search of a place where he might hide his imperfections. The prince tried to fit in here and there, with these people and with those. He hid his identity from everyone until he forgot it himself.
One day he heard a story about his father the king. The storyteller told of his great love and kindness, and the humility he showed in dealing with his subjects. The young prince listened to the tale of his father’s bravery and sacrifice, and came to understood the kingdom in a new way.
The prince decided to be a good and loyal subject. He would start by following the rules his father had enacted. As if for the first time, he studied the laws of his father’s kingdom. The prince was surprised to find he enjoyed his life more than ever he had.
In fact, the very first time he went to the public square to serve his village, he met an extraordinary friend -although he didn’t know it at the time. The prince came across a homeless man, both epileptic and diabetic, and neither had slowed his drinking. He was planning to kill himself.
The young prince did all he could for the poor man, he listened and offered a plate of warm eggs as a last meal. The man declined, he was in great despair and wanted no comfort. He would take all of his insulin that night and walk until he fell over dead.
The man dismissed the prince. “You don’t understand” he said, “I’m calling it quits.”
The prince replied, “You’re right. I do not understand. But I will listen if you’ll tell me.”
As his tale was told, the man’s tears dried and his eyes cleared. The prince offered food again, and the man again refused. “I can’t see.” The prince stood and extended his hand, which the man took. They crossed the street together.
When the plates had been cleaned and the cups emptied, the man stood to leave. Before turning away he said, “If you should ever want to know how many of the poor live, come walk an evening with me.”
“Would I find you alive if I did?”
One warm evening a few weeks later the prince went again to the park. He found the man sitting under a tree, listening to musicians play and sipping from a bag. The prince greeted the man, who spoke with him hesitantly.
The prince noted the simple, sharp knife laying close at hand, and understood that his new friend lived under laws of a different sort. The man was small and sickly – he would stab first and avoid a fight he could not win.
Over the next few years the prince and the man would cross paths and speak pleasantly. From time to time the man would disappear, and the prince came to expect this. The man explained he had been at times under a physicians care, others he had been under the jailers lock.
I never left North Carolina, so don’t think I’m speaking as some war hardened vet. I can only speak as the soft North American comfortable Christian that I am. So don’t expect much, OK?
I was the prototype Red, White and Blue American who protested peace protests. I not only owned guns, but subscribed to gun magazines. Never joined a militia, but thought they were neat-o. Republicans loved Jesus and Democrats wanted to kill babies. Et cetera.
Then I realized that Jesus woulda cried over what Christians in both parties do in His name. We bought into this Empire, hook, line and sinker. With respect to Bad Religion, many have sold their immortal souls to an American Jesus that no longer represents me.
I don’t like the other version any better.
I risk sounding like an anarchist, but this American Jesus has it’s agenda. I no longer believe that it serves it’s peoples best interests, and certainly not mine.
My Jesus says “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:44-45a)
As we approach the anniversary of such a terrible event I don’t presume to have all the answers. But I will challenge you: Who are you following?
If you claim Christ, join me and spend tomorrow praying for peace, and crying over the loss of life ten years ago, and every day since.
My wife has Lyme Disease. We’re also making hard decisions with major life kinda stuff. We also still haven’t figured out everything that goes into being an “adult”, thus we struggle financially far too often – not the sign of a balanced life.
And I still know that everything is going to be OK. I have that surreal, kinda funny feeling peace about it all. It’s almost as if I can actually trust God to deliver on that “I’ll see you through everything” spiel we God-fearing type typically spew.
Through all the pain of making tough decisions and having hard conversations, I’m finding that God constantly – and consistently – reassures me that He’s in charge, and that He’s good to us. He keeps reminding me of little nuggets of truth.
Today’s was: “The LORD God is Holy, and good to His people.” Can’t find that in Scripture, so I guess I’m combining Psalm 99:9 and Hosea 3:5. Or God still whispers crazy truth.
The other thing that’s never far from my lips is a prayer He gave me.
My Peace be unto you.
for the Spirit of the LORD is upon you
to do many great things
for which I will prepare you.
ONLY DO THIS:
Live simple, humble lives
for this pleases the LORD.
You have nothing to do but this.
You have nowhere to be but here.
Stay the course:
It’s less than 12 hours away!
ARE YOU PREPARED???
Guys – You play the role of Groucho Marx
Ladies – you be Lucille Ball
Him: (nothing – He’s watching TV)
Her: So, we need to talk about what – if anything – we’ll do for Valentines Day….
Him: Why ya wanna talk about talking about it doll? Lets talk – I’m all ears.
Her: Well, I know we don’t really celebrate it the Hallmark way, but we should do something don’t you think?
Him: Sounds swell sweetie, what’cha got in mind?
What he hears next: …………………………………………………
Gentlemen, follow through on some simple act of endearment (have the Hallmark in hand when you do), and let your lady feel loved.
You’ve been warned!!