War and Rumors of War

Christ is risen!

Indeed He is risen! 

It is pretty hard not to notice the divisive political polarity in America these days.  All sides hold to their own news sources, have different fears and concerns, are not willing to compromise or cooperate on anything, claim different facts about life, and tend to see the ‘other side’ as lunatics.  The divisiveness seems to permeate every aspect of life in America, including church life.  It becomes the lens through which people see, measure or understand things. It reminds me of the 1974 song, “There Is A War,” by Leonard Cohen in which he says (humorously, but perhaps wearily) that “There is a war between the ones who say there is a war and the ones who say there isn’t.”  Can’t seem to agree on anything and even those who say there isn’t a war going on are at war with those who say there is a war going on.

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Some of his lyrics from the song are below:

There is a war between the rich and poor,
a war between the man and the woman.
There is a war between the ones who say there is a war
and the ones who say there isn’t.
Why don’t you come on back to the war, that’s right, get in it,
why don’t you come on back to the war, it’s just beginning.

. . .

Why don’t you come on back to the war, don’t be a tourist,
why don’t you come on back to the war, before it hurts us,
why don’t you come on back to the war, let’s all get nervous.

. . .

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There is a war between the rich and poor,
a war between the man and the woman.
There is a war between the left and right,
a war between the black and white,
a war between the odd and the even.

Why don’t you come on back to the war, pick up your tiny burden,
why don’t you come on back to the war, let’s all get even,
why don’t you come on back to the war, can’t you hear me speaking?

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Maybe we all are just suffering battle fatigue, shell shock or post-traumatic stress syndrome from these culture wars.  As Christians we can live a better way and not contribute to the endless culture wars because we are to bear witness to the Kingdom of God.  We get a glimpse that such culture wars with opposing factions within a culture were around at the time of Christ.  In Luke 4:14-30, we see how quickly ‘sides’ emerge.  At first people seem eager to hear Christ’s teachings, and the text says “all spoke well of him.”  But within a few verses the same “all” are furious with Jesus and want to kill Him.  A culture war has begun, based on how one interprets who Jesus is.  The same people, now split against each other.  Sadly, it continues to this day but has found many new ways of expressing itself.  The Lord spoke of love, peace and that all may be one, but His followers find more and more things to dispute and turn against each other even allowing American politics to shape their understanding of Christ.

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away.  

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We may think that culture wars are what we are to engage in, but we might remember the words of St James in which wars, even culture wars are the result of sinful passions, not godliness.  We can be at war with our flesh within ourselves, but with others, even enemies we are to love and strive for peace.  War and force are not the methods Christ used to transfigure others (see Matthew 26:52-54) as He didn’t see them as fulfilling Scripture.

What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  (James 4:1-4)