September 10, 2007

€œGod’€™s Warriors (Part Three)
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Do you ever have arguments in your family? Someone may start it off with a legitimate complaint. Unfortunately, they’ve waited too long to express it, and it comes out overly emotional and with a strong element of blame toward another family member. Surprised by the outburst and offended by the accusation, the second person makes counter-complaints, possibly digging up past situations. Before you know it, they are on separate mountain tops, unloading heavy ammunition on each other.

I thought of this parallel while I was watching the recent CNN episodes entitled “God’s Warriors.â€? Here are three major world religions that are, in a sense, part of the same faith-family, all three “People of The Book,â€? all three claiming Abraham as their faith-father, and they are lobbing heavy artillery at each other from remote mountain tops. Judaism began when God called Abraham to his special destiny and to the Holy Land, and this story is the subject of “The Bookâ€? #1, the Old Testament. Two thousand years later, a particular Jew named Jesus walked in the same Holy Land. His followers believed him to be God’s unique Son and the Savior of the world. They wrote about him in “The Bookâ€? #2, the New Testament. Six hundred years after that, a man named Mohammed arose as a prophet. He believed that God had spoken through “The Bookâ€? #1 and “The Bookâ€? #2, but added his own special revelation in “The Bookâ€? #3, the Koran. He then culminated his career in the same Holy Land.

In our day, each of these groups has a fundamentalist expression that is very vocal and very belligerent. Muslim extremists have gotten the world’s attention by some sophisticated violent strategies we have come to know as terrorism. The Holy Land itself has been a major arena of this struggle, and there, Muslim violence has been matched by Jewish violence. The strategic response suggested by Christian fundamentalists is to confront violence with violence, to terrorize the terrorists, to smash them into submission.
This doesn’t work in families, and it’s not likely to work in international struggles either.

What does work in families is when someone starts to talk more softly and to do a lot more listening. Then the other party doesn’t have to yell as loudly and can stop flailing around looking for a target to hit. When this happens, it’s surprising how quickly people start making their way down from their respective mountain tops. In the quiet valley between is where family unity can be restored and differences worked out in a constructive way.

Am I totally naive to think this can happen in world conflicts as well? That the best response to Muslim extremism is not Christian extremism, but Christian moderation? Cool, quiet valley-talk?

A lot of people think my suggestion is worse than naive. They believe it’s coddling, enabling, appeasement. My question is, what has the tough approach accomplished? Just bigger bombs, more terrorists and more deaths.

Ironically, the more we see Muslims as enemies to be eliminated, the less likely we are to see them as objects of Jesus’ love to be evangelized. Missionary attempts to present the transforming love of Jesus are obscured by the image of Crusaders in the eleventh century and God’s Warriors in the twenty-first century.

“People of the Bookâ€?—but which book? Christians believe that “The Bookâ€? #2 is the one which focuses on God’s ultimate Truth, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that “The Bookâ€? #1 contains foundational truths that are important to our understanding of God and his will. We don’t know “The Bookâ€? #3 very well, but we are open to the idea that it also contains unique insights about how God relates to his creation. But only “The Bookâ€? #2 tells us about how God sent Jesus to save us, and that is the Truth above all truths.

I believe that if we could talk freely about our three Books, many Jews and Muslims would accept Jesus. But this will never happen when we are on three mountain tops, all seeing ourselves as “God’s Warriors.â€? No one has ever been bullied into accepting God’s love.