Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On Judging Other Nations

Andy's comment on the previous post: "Is it fair for God to use a nation like Babylon to punish other nations, then punish Babylon for doing exactly what God directed them to do?"

My cynical answer is, if God says it's fair, it's fair. It's God's universe and he makes the rules. He can make them, and he can break them.

I can even back the first two sentences up with Scripture: All have sinned and the wages of sin is death. We deserve to die and go to hell, and anything better than that is God's grace to the undeserving.

I don't think Andy claims that God appeared to Nebuchadnezzar and told him to invade Judah; rather, through that relationship between God's total sovereignty and man's total free will and responsibility—a relationship that believers consider beyond human comprehension and unbelievers consider simply irrational and thus impossible—God worked his sovereign will through Nebuchadnezzar's will to bring judgment on Judah. So how can God condemn Babylon for doing what he wanted them to do?

I don't know. Paul addresses the question and Job deals with it through the bulk of his book, and the answer is the same both times: "You didn't make the universe, you don't know how it works, and you can't do anything about it, so shut up" (Job 38–41; Ro 9).

I do think we need to question our assumption that God is using the US to judge other nations' wickedness. He never called Israel to judge the wickedness of its neighbors. Ammon was clearly the aggressor in 1 Samuel 12; other than that, I can't think of any time Israel's military went outside its borders. (Philistia was within the borders God described to Joshua.) The closest they got to a preemptive strike against potential aggressors was Jonah's mission to Nineveh, and need I point out that that was not a government operation?

As Andy mentions, Uncle Sam's reason for invading Iraq and Afgbhanistan was imperialist theft. That Uncle Sam is God's agent of judgment against those nations is a reasonable proposition, But the fate of Babylon, an imperialist power that was also God's agent of judgment, against Judah, should give us pause: do we want to suffer the same fate? If not, is there anything we can do about it? What privilege is it to be used as God's agent of judgment if God's just going to punish me for it? I wouldn't mind being God's agent of judgment against pretty girls who dress provocatively, but I can't imagine that a thousand years from now I'd be glad I did so. Somewhere in this deceitful, wicked heart I wouldn't even want to live in a universe in which I would be.

If my church is typical, US Christians spend over three times as much in taxes to "punish" Iraq alone than they give in support for all missionaries. If this situation were simply a matter of an evil government ruling over a helpless people, that would be no cause for concern. What bothers me is that US Christians want to spend more money doing who-cares-what in Iraq than they do on fulfilling the Great Commission: I have lost a lot of friends simply by pointing out Uncle Sam's evils and questioning the wisdom of identifying with him. If they want to share Babylon's fate, that's their choice. Unfortunately, I don't have enough money to get out of Babylon, so I'll have to share it with them.

This blog is an attempt to convince Christians to remember that their only citizenship described as such is in heaven (Php 3:20) and to make the Great Commission, through simple good neighborliness if nothing else, their first priority. As April Glaspie told Saddam, "We have no opinion about your [nationalist or imperialist] conflicts"; we don't see that anyone is on the side of justice. We can do better.

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