Summary: Jesus rose to bring us freedom. But we tend to adapt to sin and the things that easily entangle, rather than really getting free. Beginning with some thoughts on war in Iraq
Dare to Be Free Again: “Up From the Grave: Lent 2003”
March 22/23, 2003
Once again we find ourselves in the midst of a world at war. We’ve seen the pictures of bombs dropping, of soldiers racing through the desert, of people surrendering. I didn’t anticipate that today’s title, which I planned several weeks ago, would be quite so timely: “Dare to be free again.” I anticipated continuing in our Lent series, focusing on the resurrection of our Lord Jesus and what that means for us, by looking today at the freedom we have from sin because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And I still plan to spend the majority of time on that topic, but before I do, let me ask the question: how should we as Christians respond to what we see on CNN and what we read in the paper? What is a Christian perspective on the war in Iraq?
I am the type of person who wants to know the facts before coming to a conclusion. And that is what makes this issue difficult for me – I don’t believe it is possible for us to really know the facts. Does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction, and an ability and desire to use them to attack innocent people? I don’t know. Was there really no more hope that a diplomatic solution was possible? I don’t know. Is there a strong economic motivation for the US to lead a coalition into Iraq, or is the main desire truly the “liberation of the innocent people of Iraq”? I don’t know. We all have opinions on these questions, but none of us really know all the facts – and what facts we do have are so thoroughly processed through shrewd spokespeople with obvious agendas that it is difficult (if not impossible) to find the cold, hard facts.
Even if we did have all the facts, different groups of Christians could easily come to different conclusions. Our Mennonite brothers and sisters have a strong theology of pacifism, and conclude that war is always (or at least almost always) wrong. Other Christians would assert that there are occasions when war is justified, which would be my conviction – which then leads me back where I started, lacking sufficient facts to make a reliable decision about whether this is one of those cases when war is justified.
So I retreat to what I do know. On Thursday there was a whole lot of talk on CTV about whether a particular figure on video was really Saddam or one of his doubles. Lloyd Robertson led into an interview with expert, an Iraqi professor at U Ottawa, with the question of what he thought about this. The man responded (and I’m paraphrasing here): “who cares? That is a waste of time to talk about when the reality is that bombs are being dropped on a city. People are being bombed – bullets are being shot – people on both sides of the conflict are dying. That is more important to talk about.” It was a rare moment of honest clarity. So what do I know for sure, and how does that translate into action for Christians:
1. God is a God of Peace. We can (and most certainly do) have different opinions about whether peace should have been maintained the way the UN desired it, or whether peace in this case is something that can only be obtained with new leadership in Iraq, as the US coalition describes it. But we would all agree that God’s desire is for there to be peace. So we pray for peace.
2. God desires justice. God’s character is one of justice – His desire is that people be recognized as His precious creation and be treated with justice as a result. And here is where I relax with not knowing all the facts. Because God does. And He is the true judge, of actions yes, but also of motivations. God fights against evil and for justice. So I pray for that as well.
3. We are in the midst of conflict. War has begun, you and I are powerless to stop it – that isn’t our decision. So in conflict, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to pray for God’s will to be done and His Kingdom to come. Can somehow this situation advance the Kingdom of God in our world? I think so, though it might be somehow very different from how it appears. God can use all things to draw people and nations to Himself, and so that is the third thing I pray for – for God to bring some good out of this conflict.
4. In conflict, innocent people suffer. Parents lose children. Bombs go off target. Angry people retaliate. So we have a responsibility to pray that God would protect the innocent – that He would minimize the overflow of war and its effects on people who do not deserve to be robbed of life through a conflict that they are not willingly a part of. A big part of this is praying for a quick end to the conflict, so that as few people as possible are negatively impacted.