Monday, September 7, 2015

Relational Discord, Personal and Otherwise

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. (Prov 16:7)

When the George W. Bush administration announced that the Global War on Terror would require constant war for decades, if not generations, I don’t remember hearing anyone ask, “Isn’t this announcement an admission that something is seriously wrong with our diplomatic corps?”

I know I didn’t think to ask it. My thought at that time was that we should use our nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world and certainly large enough to turn the entire Muslim world into glass, to reward every act of Muslim terrorism with a mushroom cloud over a Muslim city, beginning with Mecca and working from there. I realized that we wouldn’t be able to get everyone who could carry out a megadeath attack, but eventually we’d get most of them. Well, it would be good enough for government work.

It didn’t occur to me that the list of large Muslim cities would soon include London and Paris and Hamtramck, Michigan, and Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

More importantly, it didn’t occur to me to ask if diplomacy might be more effective than war. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger” (Prov 15:1). If harsh words stir up anger, what do sponsoring the Shah or Hellfire missles that target wedding parties or the torture of people who turn out to be innocent do? And if the Muslim world does indeed hate us, might it not be worthwhile to at least try speaking gently rather than subsidizing despots and terror organizations?

I heard an interesting sermon (which has nothing I remember to do with politics) the other day, one that I encourage you to listen to while you do the dishes or take a walk or something. If you don’t hang on every word, I’ll be surprised.

Among other things, the preacher quotes from a fellow named Jack Miller, of which I know nothing but what he quoted, which I paraphrase:

People who are habitually unable to work conflicts to resolution have some or all of five characteristics:

A desire to get their own way at all costs and/or be prominent.

An inability to admit and correct sins in themselves.

A strong trend toward blaming others and self-righteous gossip.

A failure to practice deep and ongoing forgiveness.

An unwillingness to listen.

This sounds like Uncle Sam to me.

Are we not “the exceptional nation,” “the lone superpower”?

When was the last time you heard any VIP admit to any kind of immorality besides sexual? Even when admitting that “collateral damage” is the killing of innocent people, have you ever heard any of our rulers say doing so was immoral?

Isn’t every problem we’ve solved by war the fault of the Indians, the British, the Spanish, the Mexicans, the Confederates, the Filipinos, the Germans, the Japanese, the North Koreans, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, … ?

Have we ever offered to forgive our enemies and sit and work things out in a way that doesn’t threaten them?

Do we ever really listen to them?

I say Uncle Sam is “habitually unable to work conflicts to resolution” because he has all five of those characteristics. And he’s proud that he does.

We Christians, each one of us, we also have those characteristics to some degree. In most areas of life we are willing to admit our fault, ask for forgiveness, and resolve by grace to do better.

Uncle Sam is unrepentant and proud of being so. I submit that any church that flies his flag will share in the reward he receives for that pride.

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