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Friday, February 3, 2012

A Scandalous God

To be honest, I've never spent much time thinking about war. I've never had an opinion one way or the other. My brain has never engaged in much thought about how it affects those living daily amongst bombings, battles, and death. Until now. I'm still devouring Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution. See my last post. I'm not going to comment on what he wrote. Read it for yourself. I pray you are as affected by these words as I was.

"....and I headed to Iraq, where I ended up living through the most beautiful and horrible month of my life. I was there during the bombing of Baghdad, visiting homes, hospitals, and families- and going to worship services with the hunders of Iraqi Christians there. Essentially, I went to Iraq because I believe in a God of scandalous grace. I have pledged allegiance to a King who loved evildoers so much he died for them, teaching us that there is something worth dying for but nothing worth killing for. I went to Iraq in the footsteps of an executed and risen God. The Jesus of the margins suffered an imperial execution by an oppressive regime of wealthy and pious elites. And now he dares me and woos me to come and follow, to take up my cross, to lose my life to find it, with the promises that life is more powerful than death and that it is more courageous to love our enemies than to kill them. May we stand by those who face the impending wrath of the empire and whisper, "God loves you, I love you, and if my country bombs your country, I will be right here with you.

One of the things that became painfully clear to me in Iraq is that what's at stake today is the reputation not just of America but of Christianity, and that's what keeps me up at night. I heard people in Iraq call leaders in the US "Christian extremists," just as leaders here speak of "Muslim extremists." Everyone is declaring war in the name of God and asking for God's blessing. One beautiful Iraqi mother threw her hands in the air and said, "Your country is declaring war in the name of God and asking God's blessing, and that is the same thing my country is doing. What kind of God is this? What has happened to the God of love, to the Prince of Peace?

Revolutionary subordination exposes the evils of power and violence without mirroring them, by gently allowing them to destroy themselves and then rising above the ruins. This approach, of course, is exemplified by Jesus, who was led like "a lamb to slaughter"; it was with revolutionary subordination that Jesus "disarmed the powers and authorities" and made a "public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Col 2:15). His was a humble redemptive suffering that flew in the face of the arrogant myth of redemptive violence.

We know all too well that we have a God who shows mercy on evildoers, for if he didn't, we'd all be in big trouble, and for that, this evildoer is very glad.

As we drove into the town, were were deeply disturbed to see that it was devastated by bombing. Before we could get out of the car, doctors greeted us, and the town began to gather. When they learned that several of us were from the US, the head doctor asked loudly, "Why this? Why? Why is your government doing this?" With tears in his eyes, he explained that only a couple of days earlier, one of the bombs had hit the hospital, the children's ward. So they could not take us to the hospital. He added with a dignified smile, "But you are our brothers, and we will take care of you. We take care of everyone- Christian, Muslim, Iraqi, American...it doesn't matter. We are all human beings. We are all sisters and brothers." And they set up a little clinic with four beds and saved my friend's life, apologizing for the scarcity of supplies due to the sanctions. The townspeople began to bring blankets and water...they smiled and invited us to live in Rutba. We offered the doctors money, but they insisted that they were caring for us as family. They did have one request: "Tell the world about Rutba." And we have."

Rather than separating ourselves from everyone we consider impure, maybe we are better off just beating our chests and praying that God would be merciful enough to save us from this present ugliness and to make our lives so beautiful that people cannot resist that mercy.