Tag Archives: war

Advent: The Dissonance of Christmas

In protest of the Vietnam War, John Lennon wrote a Christmas song called Happy Xmas (War Is Over). The background of chorus that goes “War is over now, if you want it, war is over, now!” Well, maybe so… or not!

Not every Christian may realize this but the advent of Jesus ushered in a new cosmic war, a Spiritual battle, that wages on. It has to do with the clash of kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world − the collision of powers between God and the rulers of this world.

This clash of powers begin right from the onset of Jesus’ birth. The Gospel of Matthew reminds us that the joy of Jesus’ birth gave way to bloodshed once King Herod learned that the baby being born was considered the ing of the Jews. Once his conspiracy to kill Jesus failed, Herod ordered the murder of ever boy age of two and under born in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

The slaughter of these babies is horrible but it’s also the consequence of God’s kingdom colliding with the kingdoms of this world and it doesn’t end there. Eventually the Jewish and Gentile rulers of this world conspire together, crucifying Jesus. But thankfully, God raised Jesus from death and the resurrection of Jesus is God’s assurance that the rulers of this world have lost.

…to proclaim that Jesus is King is to renounce the claims of sovereignty the rulers of this world make, whether these claims come in the form of a monarchy, oligarchy, or even a democracy.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the rules of this world will surrender their claims of sovereignty so easily. We only need to read the book of Revelation to understand how this cosmic war wages on and is waged against Jesus and his church until God’s victorious reign is fully realized in the second-coming of Christ.

So where does that leave us who proclaim Jesus as King? We sing “Hark the herald angels sing ‘Glory to the newborn King!  Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled…’” but our story reminds us that leaning into this reality places us against the kingdoms of this world. For to proclaim that Jesus is King is to renounce the claims of sovereignty the rulers of this world make, whether these claims come in the form of a monarchy, oligarchy, or even a democracy.

This isn’t a denial of the role which governments serve as God’s agents for maintaining law and order in a fallen world (cf. Rom 13:4). However, the war is over and in King Jesus, God has won the victory. As believers, who profess our allegiance to King Jesus, we bear witness to this victory. We declare that the kingdom of God is here!

And at the very least, singing “Glory to the newborn King!” should evoke some sense of dissonance with the world and even our own country. That won’t always be easy but the good news is that we’re on the winning side.

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Welcome The Refugees!

One of the justifications people make for war is the protection of innocent lives. That is, when a dictator engages in the systematic murder of innocents or an extremist group commits acts of terrorism that kills innocent people, many people believe that civilized nations should employ their military as a defensive counter measure, striking with deadly force in order to protect the lives of innocent people from further harm. Just war, in this sense, even if considered a necessary evil, is viewed as a humanitarian response.

Now let’s think about this concern for innocent lives in the matter of welcoming refugees from Syria. Today in America, many state Governors said that such refugees are not welcome in their states and according to my Facebook feed, many people support this stance. So let me just bluntly say: Refusing to welcome these refugees is a betrayal of any altruistic concern for innocent lives! Such inhospitality is incoherent with the claim we should be concerned for the protection of innocent lives when making a moral-justification for war. And for Christians, if we’re not careful, our reasoning can actually rationalize around following Jesus and his teaching. What a shame that would be!

If we are truly concerned for the innocent, then we cannot shut our doors on the refugees. So on that note, I want to share a letter written to the Governor of Virginia by my friend, classmate, (and more importantly) fellow follower of Jesus, Jeff Saferite, a pastor with the Hill City Church in Arlington, Virginia:

Governor,

I am praying for you today as the pressure mounts on how to respond to the attacks in Paris, the Daesh, and the Syrian refugees. It is my hope that you will open the doors of Virginia to those seeking refuge.

I remember the first time I walked through the Holocaust museum in DC. The story that stuck with me most is that of the SS St. Louis. I walked away from that experience asking how the good people of America could reject Jewish refugees in the face of Hitler. This question has resurfaced today.

Daesh survives and thrives off propaganda. The quickest way to defeat this great evil is to take the narrative away from them. Let’s show the world that Virginia, and America, is a place of love, freedom, and hospitality. I recognize there is danger in doing this but I believe there is greater danger in not doing so.

This is the path of Jesus, and the path that our congregation is on. The Christian congregation that I pastor is committed to joining in the efforts to serve, house, and feed the Syrian Refugees. We are deeply distressed that the violence of a few has caused a fear that threatens to overcome the compassion of many others toward the countless that needs our assistance

I pray that we rise above the attackers who see themselves as powerful when they prey on the powerless. Let’s show them the true power of a state that stands for love of another at any cost. Virginia is for lovers and sometimes love is a risk.

Lead us in making a statement by opening the doors of Virginia to Syrian Refugees!

Rev. Jeffrey T. Saferite, Jr.
Hill City Church
Arlington, VA

So can we welcome the refugees?

I was living in Memphis when the city, along with plenty of other cities, began receiving numerous refugees from the gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina. What I saw, experienced, and participated in was churches rising to the occasion by providing food, clothing, and shelter to the refugees. Many people from the community joined in to help provide basic humanitarian care for their fellow human-beings. Let’s welcome the refugees and rise to the occasion again.

As we consider the situation with Syrian refugees, Let me suggest reading the two following passages and spending some time meditating on these teachings of Jesus: 1) Matthew 25:31-46The Sheep and the Goats and 2) Luke 10:25-37The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Advent and the Christmas War

Christmas season is officially in full bloom.* I can say that because I finally heard John Lennon’s song Happy Xmas (War Is Over). The song has a background chorus that goes “War is over now, if you want it, war is over, now!” Of course, when the song was originally released in 1971, it was a song protesting the Vietnam War.

Whatever we think about the song and the Vietnam War, I must emphatically say that war is not over. For all the wars that existed before the advent of Jesus, a new cosmic war that wages on began with Jesus. Do not misunderstand me at this point. I am not speaking about the so-called culture war that some Christians wish to engage over the use of “Merry Christmas” in public or whether or not a nativity scene can be displayed on a courthouse lawn. The war I am speaking of here has to do with the clash of kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world. It is the collision of powers between God and the rulers of this world.

We encounter this clash right from the onset of the birth of Jesus. The story the Gospel of Matthew recounts is neither the story most learned in Sunday School nor is it the story portrayed in traditional nativity scenes. As Matthew recounts the story in chapters one and two, the joy of our Immanuel’s birth gives way to a grimmer fate once King Herod learns that the baby Jesus has also been born King of the Jews. Once the conspiracy to kill Jesus fails, this tyrant of a King orders the murder of ever boy age of two and under born in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

That is a terrible scene to fathom but it is the consequence of two kingdoms colliding. In this case, it happens to be the kingdom of God with Herod’s kingdom. Yet it is a war that wages on. Eventually those who rule this world killed Jesus but God raised him, assuring the world that its days under the rule of mere mortals is numbered.

Still we know that the rulers of this world do not surrender their thrones without a fight. We only need to read the book of Revelation to understand how this cosmic war wages on and is waged against Jesus and his church until that final victory is announced in judgment.

Glory to the newborn King!

Where does that leave us who proclaim Jesus as King? We sing “Hark the herald angels sing ‘Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled…’” but our story reminds us that leaning into this reality places us against the kingdoms of this world. For to proclaim that Jesus is King is to renounce the claims of sovereignty which the rulers of this world continue to make, whether those rulers take the form of monarchy, oligarchy, or even a democracy.

This does not deny in any way the role which governments do serve as God’s agents for maintaining law and order in a fallen world (cf. Rom 13:4). However, we cannot be faithful to scripture and only embrace the G-rated version story of Jesus’ birth we teach our children. In fact, we may even do our children a disservice by teaching that sanitized version to begin with. The story of Jesus, beginning with his birth and subsequently his life to follow that culminates with his death, resurrection, and second-coming must provoke us, the church of Jesus Christ, with the kingdom question.

If we do not feel any dissonance with the rulers of the world when we sing “Glory to the newborn King!” could it be that we have settled for a Jesus different from the one who was born king of the Jews?

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* This post is a slightly modified version of an article that was published as “Advent, the Cosmic War, and the Kingdom Question” in Connecting, 27 (December 12, 2012), a biweekly publication of the Columbia Church of Christ.