Ping homilies: love

America, bless God

Wow, Valentine's Day came and went, and I hardly noticed the recent 9rules religion topic: Love. While V-Day is important to me, and I like being all sweet and sappy (just ask my wife), that's not the brand of love I want to talk about in this homily. Rather,I would like to touch briefly on the type that is covered in Matthew 5:43-46…

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

I apologize for all the old English in the above scripture, but I'm using the King James Version because it's "open source," whereas some of the newer translations have various copyrights attached. That being said, I think Jesus makes a good point here (doesn't he always). He "raises the bar," so to speak on the standards of love. It is not enough for us to love selfishly to get something in return. That is nothing more than veiled political ambition.

Pray for Iraq

I cannot tell you how much it bothers me to hear from the pulpit "pray for our troops," and nothing more. If we are to truely love the way Jesus has called us to, we must pray for all those involved in this international conflict: our troops, allies, and enemies. I would love to hear someone say "Bow your heads in a prayer for Iraq." I bet people would fall out of their pews if a preacher said that! At seminary, we met a student whose family background is Iraqi, and it was interesting to see his perspective on things.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no revolutionary. Despite my frustrations with the speed (or lack thereof) with which the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is processing my wife's permanent resident paperwork, I consider myself fortunate to be an American. While I enjoy a certain quality of life here in the US, I cannot say that I am always "proud" to be an American, because let's face it - we don't always make wise decisions. I feel about this country like I do about Windows - It's not the best system, but it's what we've got, so we make do.

American != Christian

If you're not familiar with the != syntax, in most programming languages, that's the way to write "not equal to." While I certainly don't think that American citizenship and Christianity are mutually exclusive, I think we need to hit pause sometimes, and realize they are not automatically synonymous.

Some time ago I asked my dad, a retired US Air Force colonel, and experienced pilot, about how he felt that Christianity meshed with war. He said that the best soldier is the one who does not go looking to pick a fight. If I may, here's a good quote from the movie Spiderman: "With great power comes great responsibility." We must use our gifts for the right purposes.

My dad also pointed out to me something that a chaplain had told him: The Exodus 20:13 commandment of "Thou shalt not kill," literally reads "thou shalt not murder," which makes a whole lot more sense in light of some of the bloody scenes in the Old Testament. The death penalty was not a foreign concept to ancient Israel, but it was executed with corporate consent.

Murder then, is killing without authorization, vigilante justice, taking the law into your own hands. So, while the war on terror continues, I think it's important for us to remember to pray for our enemies. Even if you think the bad guys deserve what they get, keep in mind Ezekiel 33:11…

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Well, I'll wrap this article before it gets too lengthy. Let me just say that I'm a fat and happy American citizen who is thankful to be living in a land o'plenty. My intention here was not to spark a political debate, simply to remind us (myself especially) to live a life of love - praying for all of humankind.