- Syria is a disaster.
- Iraq is too
- Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and several other countries have recently experienced revolutions.
- North Korea hates America and, in particular, South Korea. The latter nations return the sentiment.
- Russia is coy (though decreasingly so) about Syria because of their interests there, alienating themselves.
- China launches cyber attacks against United States corporations. Though unreported, I’m pretty sure it’s a two-way street.
- There’s the ongoing Israel/Palestine debacle.
- And the Iran/Israel hostility.
- And the U.S./Iran hostility.
- And the Sudanese Civil War that created a new country altogether.
- And the uprising in other African nations.
- And what in the world is going on in Pakistan?
Nations warring against nations. Nations warring within themselves. What in the world is going on? The only people that benefit are cable news stations and arms dealers. Everyone else is growing weary. Is it all necessary?
Maybe I’m naive, but Jesus said some stuff that I think would help groups of people, not just individuals. Idealism or not, here are a couple of those statements:
- “Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
- “Treat others as you would want to be treated.” (Luke 6:31)
- “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
Normally when we consider those verses, we think that they are individual values to be adhered to–and that is certainly a responsible application. But in all those cases, Jesus was talking to a group. And he was talking to a group of people who were prone to hate. They (the Jewish nation, that is) despised the Romans. They resented Tax Collectors. They were cynical concerning the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. But Jesus’ advice was to love, pray for, treat kindly, etc. all those who they were more inclined to want to war against.
Like I said, you’re going to think I’m nuts, but what if nations observed this Biblical wisdom? What if America sought to serve it’s enemies? What if the power nations in the world sent prayer teams to struggling people? What if we lived out a life of love to our neighbors not just domestic, but foreign? America, for all the good things we stand for, is in need of prayer too. What if countries around the world really loved us? What if people prayed for us instead of terrorizing us?
To be fair, some religions don’t teach this. However, Christianity does. Also to be fair, loving our enemies does not mean not practicing justice. We can argue about just war another time. All I’m asserting is that–American or not–our loyalties are first and foremost to Christ and His Kingdom. This so-called Christian nation doesn’t always live out it’s faith in this way. We’re too busy bombing our enemies to do anything else.
The problem is that every nation is waiting for another to go first:
Iran doesn’t even have Israel on their map (literally…the Iranian version of Google Earth does not include the nation of Israel) because they resent the Jewish people. The Jewish people in Israel are harsh to the Palestinians because of centuries-old conflict. The Palestinians don’t like Israel because they took their land. They also hate America because the United States helped make it happen. The U.S. helped make it happen because (amongst other reasons) the Jews had been so harshly treated during WWII. I’m oversimplifying complex geo-political issues, I know. But they wouldn’t be so complex if we could adhere to the simple way Jesus asked us to live. And this vicious cycle of hate isn’t really working out too hot for anyone, is it?
Well there are the cable channels and the arms dealers…
Maybe Jesus instructed us to love our enemies not because hating them would be bad for them–harming them, killing them, punishing them, alienating them–but because it doesn’t end so well for us. How many times can a nation (or a person, for that matter) aggressively defend themselves only to eventually be considered the bully? How many times can we go on a “peace-keeping mission” only to be viewed as manipulative, selfish, and confrontational?
If Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world, then we as believers are the foreigners. By virtue of belonging the Jesus, we should live by a different set of rules. We should stick out and sound funny. We should have a higher standard.
So the responsibility is not on our government. It’s on the church.
If you look at a map of the world, the vast majority of the conflict that exists on our globe exists in the so-called 10/40 window. Nations in this section of the globe (that is, ten degrees north latitude to forty degrees north latitude) include: Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, North Korea, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen, just to name a few. This window of the world contains 6,120 people groups that are unreached by the Gospel. This window contains predominately non-religious, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist nations. And this window contains over half the world’s population.
Only about 10% of all our missionary efforts are focused on the unreached people groups within these nations.
That means 90% of our efforts to spread the gospel are focused on areas that have already heard it, already have churches, already have the Bible in their language, and already have pastors. I’m not suggesting we abandon every place where there are already churches. I’m just suggesting that the overall effort is not proportional.
So, what about it? Here’s a few suggestions. They may seem crazy or impossible. But that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
- What if we sent missionaries in the same amount that we sent troops?
- What if we funded churches in the 10/40 window the same way we fund rebel armies bent on defeating their nation’s dictators?
- What if we spent the same amount of time praying for our enemies as we did dishing out propaganda regarding their anti-American views?
- What if Christians were content to be martyred for the cause of Christ by evangelizing in these “closed” nations? How many believers would have to die before there was a breakthrough? More or less than in the early church in the Roman Empire?
The bottom line is this: nations aren’t going to observe the words of Christ. Nations are of this world–they are lines drawn on a map separating people into groups with different values, rights, and privileges. We war over these lines. They are arbitrary designations organized around resources, ideals, and ethnicity. They are entities that, at the end of the day, exist to preserve their own interests.
It is the church’s job to live out the words of Christ to love our enemy, pray for those that persecute us, and love our neighbor like we love ourselves. It is the church’s job to set the example for our government on what it means to “do good to those who persecute you.”
The President of the United States is not going to jump on Air Force One and go wash the feet of Bashar al-Assad. It’s just not going to happen. But before we blame our country for it’s failed policy in the middle and far East, we need to take a long hard look in the mirror as the Church and ask ourselves what we’re doing that is any more successful.