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Empathizing with modern-day Sadducees
In the New Testament, the Sadducees were a Jewish political party and a religious order. They are some of Jesus’ primary detractors. To put it one way, perhaps as the punk rocker in my heart might, they were sell outs. They were walking a thin line between loyalty to God and loyalty to the Roman Empire which occupied Palestine. They were increasingly allowing Rome and its officials to disrupt Jewish culture and ideology. In fact, to most people, the Sadducees and the Romans were about the same. They spoke in the name of God but represented the interests of the Roman Empire. I am sympathetic with them because they were truly caught in a difficult place, trying to lead their people, while facing extinction, destruction, and displacement by a powerful occupier.
I mention this little piece of history to note that these days there seems to be more and more people who are acting like they were members of that political party. To many people in the U.S., in light of the Paris bombings and the San Bernardino shooting, an alliance with the violent empire of the U.S. is the only way to defeat the Islamic State and its threats against innocent people.
There are many reasons the IS got formed in the Middle East, not least of which was the ill-advised, quagmire Iraq War, but rather than point the finger all the time (I know I did a little) and wish that circumstances were different, I want to empathize. I realize how oppressive and wicked the actions of the IS are. Terrorists killing innocent people in the name of the Koran, Islam, and Allah, is not very new to me. In fact, among my peers, I have a unique perspective, because my family, who are Christian Egyptians, had a hard time living in even a moderate Muslim theocracy. This extremism is very personal. And it truly does confound me. And it confounds Christians all over who are wondering how to demonstrate the love of Christ to their enemies. Rod made Jesus’ famous commandment plain on Monday: it’s time to love our enemies. That’s the calling and the lifestyle that Jesus commanded.
I wonder then why people like Jerry Falwell, Jr., who undoubtedly know that commandment from Jesus, act so unusually when they make calls for arm themselves in order to eradicate any sort of “Islamist” threat. Here’s the direct quote:
“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them.”
Do they not see the basic picture? Are they blind to calls of Jesus? Jesus is speaking plainly, and was to the people he was directly addressing, but they still struggled to follow what he called for.
Because of my background, I think I understand it. It seems like Americans are increasingly arming themselves in order to protect themselves. I suppose that is understandable too. Our government isn’t doing much to protect us, we can’t seem to pass legislation that might help the cause (and the legislation that’s proposed is up for debate anyway). The temptation is there to succumb to the fear and protect ourselves, or support the candidate who is most likely to blow up all of our enemies (as if, for once, violence won’t beget more violence).
That mentality, I believe, comes from the state itself. I actually think the state has, over time, eroded the calls of Jesus and replaced it with their own. Zack Hunt called it the end of Christianity (h/t Tim Reardon):
"It’s Christianity without discipleship, Christianity without the cross, Christianity without Jesus Christ living and incarnate.
It no longer matters if we actually live like Jesus, so long as we agree that Christian dogma is true."
I agree with Hunt, vehemently. I'd like to declare his truths from a rooftop. Nothing feels more satisfying than to rip into the modern-day Sadducees that have done little to include peacemaking Christians who are looking to create an alternative. In my own “peacemaking” way, I am often tempted to violently disagree with a Christian call to violence. I want to be real, especially during Advent. I want to represent Jesus because I’m sick of the sell outs taking up the air time.
But I’m not so sure my loud political argument is so effective. Plus, I did plenty of it with my dad (over the very issues in this post) growing up. I think it's time for me to stop shouting.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve made a concerted effort to not shrink my echo chamber. I’ve actually made a lot of friends with people who are actively serving in the military or formerly did. It’s opened my eyes. I’m listening to all sorts of the people with a wide variety of perspectives, many of which are different than my own, but perhaps some of which have some truth in them. I’m not less of a peacemaker, to be sure, but I am feeling called to be more inclusive and gentle, even with my strongest of convictions. I do not want to create a new kind of fundamentalism. I rejected fundamentalism a long time ago.
So my big ask is this. When you find a brother or sister who is not moving with Jesus and his calling, gentle guide him or her to the truth (and be willing to learn from them too). My favorite way is including them in a cell or a Sunday meeting, but it doesn’t have to be that. There are lots of things we can do. Maybe you can list another.
The last thing we need is a new law, dictating by a holier-than-thou thought police. Even the most extreme people, including the IS, have their reasons for what they do. Responding with truth and love to them may actually change their hearts. That goes to all of our enemies; whether they are in Lynchburg or Iraq.