Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Kingdom Response

The recent death of Osama bin Laden and the general reaction in the media and across our nation have again emphasized the inherent tension between citizenship in the nations of the world and citizenship in the Kingdom of God. It has verified for me that, indeed, “Christian Nation” is an oxymoron – even more, a category mistake. Individuals may be Christian, but nations are not in the category of things that can be Christian.

It seems to me entirely reasonable for the Commander-In-Chief of the United States to order the elimination of an enemy sworn to the destruction of our nation; I find no fault in a President acting in this manner. It is also not unexpected that citizens of the United States – as citizens of the United States – should feel a great sense of relief, and perhaps jubilation, that the enemy leader is no more. I can even – and perhaps especially – empathize with the families of the victims of 9/11 – victims themselves – in mixed feelings of justice and vengeance. The problem is that none of the actions or reactions is Christian. Our Lord, Commander-In-Chief of the Hosts of Heaven, commanded his followers to forego vengeance and retaliation, to pray for enemies, to show mercy toward them. He commanded us to forgive – seventy times seven. He commanded us to lay down the sword and to lay down our lives. I do not think a nation can do these things and survive. But Christians? We cannot ignore these things and survive. And therein lies the tension. We are simultaneously citizens of the United States and of the Kingdom of God, with conflicting values and demands imposed upon us. I am no better at reconciling these conflicts than anyone else. How do we start?

First, we must refuse to rejoice over the death of our enemy; we must, instead, mourn for the victory of Satan who so perverted an image-bearer of God that he could become our – or anyone’s – enemy. God desires not the death of a sinner; can we? And – Dare I say this? – we must pray for God’s mercy upon Osama bin Laden, that if possible, even now his heart may be turned to embrace our Lord and become our brother instead of our enemy.

Second, we must pray for our enemies who remain, that peace may rule their hearts and ours and that together we might worship our Lord.

Third, we must pray for ourselves – for the strength to follow our Lord and for forgiveness of the myriad of ways we are complicit in making enemies and adding to the burden of sin in the world.

Forth, we must continually re-evaluate our priorities and our loyalties. We are a kingdom and priests to serve the God and Father of our Lord Jesus. We cannot serve with bloody hands, unless that blood be our own, unless that blood be Christ’s.

I write these things, brothers and sisters, not to remove the speck from anyone’s eye, but rather humbly to acknowledge the log in my own. Of your mercy, please pray for this sinner.

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