Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live faithfully...in the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Who doesn't claim God?

There's an interesting little account in Joshua 5 about Joshua's encounter with a man whose sword is drawn, ready for battle. When Joshua sees him, he wants to know: "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" The man's answer, instead of a simple yes or no, is that he stands before Joshua as 'commander of the army of the Lord'.

In the present conflicts, in the middle east (and there are many), it seems that every side is quick to claim God as belonging to them. Does God belong to Israel when the kidnapping of a couple Israeli soldiers becomes the pretext for destroying whole villages, including the women and children therein? Does God belong to Hizballah as they articulate settling for nothing less than the annihilation of Israel? What about the Palestinians? What about Al-Quida? Sunnis? Shiites? The American Military Industrial Complex?

The reality is that each of these is vain enough to claim that God is on their side. But when Joshua asks whose side the Lord is on, the the Lord says that He is His own side. So I presume He's not too happy about we 20% of the world consuming 60% of resources and claiming that we do so because of the favor of God, any more than he's happy when terrorist plots kill children and God's name is claimed as the source of power for the deed. Some will get upset and claim that I'm putting American politics on the same level as terrorist organizations. They're missing the point. The point is that every group who claims to act on behalf of God would do well to examine themselves before speaking too presumptively. Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address clarifies the folly of presuming God's favor. Speaking of north and south, Lincoln said, Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.

God will not be used for our own purposes and ends - rather it is God whose purposes and ends we are invited to humbly pursue. Anything less than this is arrogance, and a pathway to certain distraction. Who is on the Lord's side? The humble, the meek, the mourners, the peacemakers. Let us be careful before answering too quickly, lest our presumption be our destruction.

8 Comments:

At 13/8/06 11:19, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We hear this from you and other sources over and over again. Yet I still can't seem to find coversation where others, even people from our congregation, don't invoke God in their justification for their side of the story.

I want to do this, have these humble conversations about where God's purposes lie, but I feel as though I'm constantly fighting against people who can't grasp that none of us can truly know the heart of God, and that all fall short of His purposes.

It makes me want to scream. Ugh, and then they get angry because I persist, as though the issues aren't worth persisting. As though it's ok to listen politely to each others opinion and then move onto another topic without ever truly understanding each other or coming to any type of resolution.

How, where, can we begin to have these extremely important conversations under the premise that you lay out in your comments?

 
At 14/8/06 11:01, Blogger Josiah said...

I'm reminded of a character in Lord of the Rings who says:

"I am not altogether on anyone's side,
because no one is altogether on my side."

Our attitude should be coming towards God and asking us to align ourselves with Him, instead of trying to fit Him into our agenda.

 
At 14/8/06 13:21, Blogger Matt said...

Ok, as one specifically passionate about being a fan of the American military complex on this one, I'm going to have to rethink before I respond. :)

Separately, this is Matt and I didn't get a chance to say goodbye at Ravencrest. My dad said you wanted to talk to me after lunch but I didn't learn that til we were already driving down the mountain. It was a great weekend. Thanks. I hope to hear from you soon.

 
At 15/8/06 06:35, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

Matt, I met some soldiers this summer and was awed by their courage, their sense of conviction, and their willingness to step into the thick of conflict on behalf of their people.

My difficulty comes, as I've said many times, if we blindly say that because we carry a certain flag, God is always on our side. As per our discussion Saturday night, there's a grave need for discernment, and discernment only grows out from thoughtful, prayerful dialogue, careful study of the Bible, and a willingness to listen to one another, even if we have different views.

Is it good to protect those who can't protect themselves, and give a voice, through democracy, to those who have had none before? I think so. Perhaps we should do the same in Tibet and China - and several places in Africa. Why we do step into one place and avoid another when both places have voiceless people, poverty, mass graves, and totalitarianism is an important question, perhaps revealing motvies less benevolant.

Meanwhile the other side looks at our Christian nation and, without offering any justification whatsoever for their own horrible crimes, points to our divorces, our treatment of the aged, our addiction to material possessions and chemicals, and question our spiritual health. Are they perhaps right to question?

I too enjoyed the weekend Matt - we'll be in touch.

 
At 15/8/06 11:58, Blogger Matt said...

I absolutely see your points and think your argument has much validity; however, we must remember that "benevolent motives" or not, God uses who he uses to accomplish his story.

We must also keep in mind that a leader's connection to the will of God cannot be denied simply because the leader is flawed. If championing democracy is righteous, then it is righteous regardless of whether the leader pushing it is doing so for his own self-interests or out of true altruistic means.

The Bush oil interests even if greedy and corrupt may still very well be accomplishing a righteous task. The goal then should be to convince our leaders to GO to Tibet, China and Africa and accomplish the same rather than tie them down with motive questions as to why they're in Iraq. I don't care why they're in Iraq. If the people of Iraq get liberated because Bush is greedy, so be it.

We just have to figure out a way to convince the Administration it stands to profit in Tibet too. :)

 
At 16/8/06 08:34, Anonymous kyle said...

"So I presume He's not too happy about we 20% of the world consuming 60% of resources..."

Could you develop this statistic a bit more? It seems as though you're stating that we deplete 60% of world resources with no return. Is that true? As the largest world economy and most industrialized country I have to think that this statistic is great for proving a point but flawed in reality.

My thought is that although we do intake 60% of world resources we probably also supply XX% of goods as a result. Also, what % of the U.N. and other world organizations do we fund?

Not trying to incite an argument about the U.S. being good or evil...just trying to analyize the whole scenario in more of an input-output type of system.

-Cheers, Kyle

 
At 21/8/06 21:46, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just have to respond to Matt who said "we must remember that "benevolent motives" or not, God uses who he uses to accomplish his story." You are obviously implying that Bush is accomplishing "His story" and I have to question your line of thinking here.

You said, "The Bush oil interests even if greedy and corrupt may still very well be accomplishing a righteous task." Do you really think that over 100 Iraqi civilian deaths per day is a righteous task? Is forcing God's will at gun point really still God's will? If Iraq falls into civil war is that still God’s will?

You say, "The goal then should be to convince our leaders to GO to Tibet, China and Africa and accomplish the same rather than tie them down with motive questions as to why they're in Iraq." Are you serious? Does anyone want to see what is going on right now in Iraq also going on in Tibet, China and all of Africa? And we shouldn't bother to ask questions about our strategically stupid foreign policy because our leaders claim they are doing God' will?

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to imply that I think God is on my side or not on Bush’s side (see Richard’s original entry ;-) I just have a hard time with blind allegiance simply because someone SAYS that God is on their side.

 
At 25/8/06 07:32, Blogger Matt said...

You missed my point. I wasn't saying this side WAS God's side. I was only criticizing the idea of assuming God isn't involved simply because the messenger is flawed. If that is a valid approach, we have to discount every single messenger Old Testament and New outside of Christ himself. Everyone else was inherently flawed and flawed in a significant way.

And I don't think it makes a lot of sense to discount that something may be of God simply because certain people are dying, especially when you quote statistics in dishonest context to make a statement the statistics don't support.

"Do you really think that over 100 Iraqi civilian deaths per day is a righteous task? Is forcing God's will at gun point really still God's will?"

Interesting strategy. Take the casualty stats from the terrorist/insurgent actions and just attribute them to the United States, cuz OBVIOUSLY it's our fault that the insurgents are killing people. Nevermind the fact that they were trying to kill Americans long before we invaded Iraq. Terrorists attack us and if we respond and they attack us again, the second attack is OBVIOUSLY our fault. I mean of course. If we had just accepted the 9-11 attack and smiled, they'd have left us alone, right. They just wanted to do that one little thing and then they would be satisified, right?

Clearly you are implying that the United States is responsible for the deaths of 100 Iraqi civilians a day despite the fact that the 100 Iraqi civilian deaths per day are caused by the insurgents blowing up those within their own faith.

Blah. I went two weeks without being bitter, but it's back again. Intellectual dishonesty in a religious argument is just sad and pathetic.

 

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