Scripture is replete with militaristic history and metaphors. Both Hebrew and Christian testaments have war-like images, and a presumption of a tribal culture that God helps righteous people destroy their enemies. Appropriating this idea into contemporary life and theology is dangerous for our society and politics, where there are active agendas to dominate or destroy those who are “other.” The image of a violent, retributive God can all but obliterate the God of love and healing in scripture. Many turn away forever from the Bible and from churches that uncritically espouse this. Ask yourself: (1) As the Body of Christ, people of peace, how can we take and offer inspiration from texts that claim if you misbehave or don’t fit in, God will punish, even kill, you? Where is the gospel inspiration of God’s unending love in that? (2) Worse yet, does God “take sides?” whether with nations or your favorite football team? Are those that pray harder somehow more blessed?
Jesus did not talk in this imagery, but it occurs in the Pauline letters. I invite you to look at pictures such as “the whole armor of God,” and “the sword of the Spirit” with which rigid theology claims we are to destroy the enemies of our culture. See them as a mockery of the equipment of Roman soldiers in that time. And pay attention to the call to put on, as shoes for your feet, whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. (Eph 6:15) And let us do so with courage and conviction.
P.S. FOOLS ABOUND – Our e-news gets around. In response to our consideration of foolishness last week, my colleague Rev. Ken Iha offered this: “We are simply asked to make gentle our bruised world, to be at peace with all, including ourselves, and then in the time left over to repeat the ancient tale of God’s amazing grace and go the way of God’s foolish ones.” (Peggy Way, pastoral counselor and theologian)