Jesus and His Unachievable Assignments
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places Matthew 24:6-8 (NRSV)
"What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?" ‒ Nick Lowe (Elvis Costello)
Little kids ask questions. Constantly. When your four year old asks, “Daddy, why is the sky blue?” the intelligent parent tries to get away with, “That's the way God wanted it to be,” and hopes that closes the case for a while. Stupid, over-answering parents, like me, try to explain light refraction and properties of the spectrum to a four year old and end with “I give up.” But, it general, when a 4-year-old asks a question, there's a reasonable answer in between the two extremes and everyone is happy.
My family just completed a long road trip to California. We're still speaking to each other, so it was a success. One morning as we were eating miles of nowhere, we caught an NPR Morning Edition broadcast on the violence in Gaza. Following that, it was ISIS in Syria and suicide bombings in Iraq. Good morning, everyone!
My wonderful 19-year-old asked, “Why are they fighting? What's the point? What do they want? Why are they killing all these innocent people?” I now had to try to answer a question posed by a young adult. I longed for the days of “why is the sky blue?” I told her, “I don't know. I don't know how anyone knows when they've won. When have you achieved your goal? Total annihilation of the “other?”
I tried slipping over into mediator mode. In mediation training, one is taught to get the conflicting parties off of “What do you want?” to “What do you need?” Two totally different positions. I could not come up with what either side really needed to stop this killing.
Soon enough, we lost the radio signal and those not driving sank into electronic devices and silence.
A few days later, the family is again locked in a vehicle driving to Austin to return said daughter to college. Again, the radio informs us of wars and killing and the slaughter of the innocents. Our daughter, a loving conscientious person, asks "Why are there still wars? With all the communication available, can't people figure out a way to do things without war?" I had no answer. There we were, both of us on the verge of becoming adults, pondering a question that had no answer. I have high hopes for her generation, a generation that wants a reason for the stupid things people do. “Why?” is one of the most annoying questions that a kid can keep asking, but when those kids become adults, “Why?” is a very powerful one.
She long ago learned that Daddy didn't have all the answers. This, I guess, is good. Daddy is just a flawed human being and flawed human beings are the cause of all the messes in which we find ourselves. If you look at the verses from Matthew above, you see that Jesus told us that we would keep screwing up and fighting idiotic wars. It will be this way until the end of time. So why bother?
Jesus also said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” So, we are told to keep trying.
Jesus gave us unachievable assignments.
Stop war. Fat chance.
Stop hunger. Fat chance.
Stop greed. Fat chance.
Stop environmental degradation. See above.
Our denomination has made stands against war, and we do not invest in companies that produce the tools of war. We are now arguing about not investing in companies that degrade the environment. Okay. So we slap these companies to the tune of 1/100 of 1% and that'll teach 'em.
The only thing that will change these situations is the change in human hearts and conscience. That's where Christ and His message comes into this whole thing. Peace can only come when human hearts value peace over wealth. Poverty will end when human hearts decide poverty is unacceptable. The Kingdom will come when human hearts decide that the greater good is more important than personal gain. The greatest chance we have is the message of Jesus and the message of like religions which value peace and humanity. In other words, we just have to keep on keeping on, doing what we can.
Jesus is called “the Prince of Peace.” Peace is how we should function.
Those of you who are old will remember a cartoonist named Gahan Wilson. He drew wonderful, macabre cartoons. Younger people, Google him. One of his most famous cartoons shows a lone soldier, wrapped in bandoliers of ammunition standing in front of a smoking, totally depopulated wasteland. The caption is “I think I won.”
The ending payout of war is death, destruction and rubble. Nobody wins. As our generation has learned that war for oil is a loser, the next generation will learn that war for water will not produce any winners, either. Christians and all others have to learn to ask “Qui bono? ‒ Who benefits?” before any war is ever launched again. Christ told us that there would be wars and rumors of war, but we must ask “Why?” and we must do what we can to stop it. All the folks who glommed on to the “what would Jesus do” concept will have to really search before they find the answer of “blow up the other guy.”
Even though the assignment is impossible, we have to do what Christ told us to do to stop the roots of war. We have to work for peace. We have to work to feed and help the poor and we have to stand up to the greedy. I've used the term “shoveling sand against the tide” too many times in this blog, but that's what we have to do. Just because it is impossible is no reason not to try.
War, at best, is a short term solution. Why people decide that killing is the best way to settle a difference is beyond my capacity to explain to my child. There's no chance that you can convince me that killing people is the best way to handle a dispute. It is totally irrational, but we are irrational beings.
We need to promote the Christmas idea all the time. “Peace on Earth, good will to all people.” There, that's your assignment. Go wage peace. Good luck and remember to deal with the powerful as if you were a child. Keep asking “Why?” until you annoy them into telling the truth or saying “I don't know.”
Oh, and just in case you need a concise, accurate answer, sunlight reaches Earth's atmosphere and is scattered in all directions by all the gases and particles in the air. Blue light is scattered in all directions by the tiny molecules of air in Earth's atmosphere. Blue is scattered more than other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves. This is why we see a blue sky most of the time.
As far as the bigger stuff, I got nothing.
But, we all have to ask, in the name of Jesus, “What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?