As Israel bombs Lebanon, and Hizbollah bombs Israel, I consider how Jesus also brought a sword; how he warned of brothers and families dividing.
Seeking peace doesn't end conflict - it just changes the location. Those who seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians, for example, end up engaging their own brothers and sisters who need outside enemies. Arabs who seek peace with Israel will have to face conflict in their own societies. In contrast, countries who seek war with Israel can keep internal peace more consistently. Iran's president, for example, is able to suppress dissent more easily due to his anti-Semitic ravings. And Israel's victim complex it allows them to continue justifying their activity. And many Arabs see he existence of Israel - as the west being unwilling to fact its own Semitism. You take the Jews. We don't want them here.
Jesus is also aware that war creates meaning, and in parables he is implicitly revealing the consciousness of war. War is a lot like a mass crucifizion. To enter war, simply honor the common, human and pagan (or the religion of empire) ethics of loyalty, honor, pride, victory. We hold close our friends, cheer our soldiers, protect our babies and curse our enemies. It is in these relationships we have what is meaningful.
But this is not God.
Hizbollah might have a story: they protect Lebanon from invaders; they protect the Shia from Sunni oppression; they build infrastructure where the government cannot. They are the only international force that cares for Palestinians, and has resisted Arab complicity in keeping Palestininans weak. But they are not the party of God.
And we might support Israel - a country that is perpetually victimized and insecure; that cultivates its identity by having the entire world as an enemy; that insists it is perpetually misunderstood. We know, also, because they are westerners that they care for their own, their sick, and their weak. They pray for justice, and hold their children tight.
Jesus simply says that we do not determine what is good or evil in war - God is the source of that. Jesus instead reveals how we are held hostage by our own tribalism, the plain sense of attacking and responding because of our own needs, desires and fears. It's cloaked in words of security and justice, but these are our own delusions, our own arrogance at thinking that our side holds the only story God hears.
War is simply us loving our families and hating our enemies. And if that's all we can do, then war is what we'll get. The cross implies that whatever victory Hezbollah and Israel are seeking will be temporary. Hezbollah's victory will never overcome the power of Israel; and Israel can't expect that its bombs will garner sympathy.
We probably know what Jesus would do. I think Jesus would probably protect Israel. He'd return the soldiers. He'd stop Hezbollah from bombing Israel. He'd allow Palestinians to travel freely between the borders of Israel and Jordan. He'd have the Arabs promise not to attack Israel and vice versa. And he would expect that Palestinians would have their own place in the land. But he would also know that peace would create other conflicts, but perhaps those conflicts would bring us closer to the Kingdom than lead us to Armageddon.
But our own lies just reveal how deep is our sin. All the conflict has demonstrated is how well we love our friends and hate the enemy. Yes, we love our families, and pray for our children. But it is our mistake to think that we are the only ones who pray thus.
Our delusion that this war is God's war, God's family, God's life and God's victory gets nailed upon the cross. And what is revealed is that war is about our families, our lives, and finally, our failures.
I might Support Israel (in the most general sense - I think their excuses about civilian bombings are specious and incredible). But I can give no theological or Christian reason why, for there is none except they are friends. In the end, I have my tribe, and so be it. Still, I pray for peace. But that is about all I can do, knowing that I, too, am a sinner. And as a sinner, I want my side to win.
And in humility, I also know that my own side might not be God's.
I end with the prayer that Mark Twain wrote.
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts,
go forth to
battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit --
we also go forth from the
sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.
O Lord our God,
to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;
help us to cover their
smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead;
help us to drown the
thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain;
to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the
hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief;
help us to turn them
with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their
desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst,
sports of the sun flames of summer
and the icy winds of winter,
broken in spirit, worn with travail,
for the refuge of the grave and denied it --
for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord,
blast their hopes,
blight their lives,
protract their bitter pilgrimage,
heavy their steps,
water their way with their tears,
stain the white snow with
the blood of their wounded feet!
We ask it,
in the spirit of love,
of Him Who is
the Source of Love,
and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend
of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.