“The world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.” (Tolkien) “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” (Dickens) “For the times they are a-changin'” (Dylan)
Words that are terribly apropos in recent weeks and days. Whether it is the groundswell of political unrest in North Africa and beyond, or the triple disaster in Japan, the world is not the same as it was even a few months ago.
Where do we (or should we) find ourselves as followers of Jesus? One answer seems pretty obvious. Compassion is always an appropriate response. But for me less obvious is my response to the surge of freedom fighters in a number of Arab countries. Sure, I’m all in favor of throwing off the yoke of oppression of a dictatorship. And, as a product of a fairly democratic country, I tend to see democracy as a great concept. But perhaps that is just the knee-jerk reaction of a Westerner?
Is there a perfect political system? Where does the Kingdom of God figure into this? In its most perfect incarnation, what would it look like if a nation followed the kingdom principles of the Sermon on the Mount, for example? Does democracy best exemplify loving your neighbor, being poor in spirit, or turning the other cheek? Or is there a different system that would better mirror the Kingdom? And, as a guy endeavoring to follow the example of Jesus, should I support some kind of effort to ‘subdue’ the leader of a totalitarian government? Should I encourage or support military action (OK, call it war) from outside in order to strengthen the efforts of the locals to establish a government of the people? Or should I mind my own business, and let them duke it out on their own? Our politicians face similar questions, and have made their decision. Or should I assume that this is all part of God’s way of bringing about Armageddon, the end of all things. That we should rejoice because ‘wars and rumors of wars’ are proof that the end of the world is coming soon, and that this is the ushering in of a New Heaven and a New Earth a la Revelation? The last option smacks too much of a view of God that I don’t want to be connected with. The God that enjoys smiting. The God that loves us, but hates them. The God that calls us to war. The God that some individuals or groups of people claim is on their side as they ‘destroy the infidels’.
Back to the question: What is my response to these cataclysmic events? Well, my heart immediately sides with those who desire freedom. And my internal justice meter redlines at the violence perpetrated by and on behalf of the existing leader in order to stay in power. But isn’t that much the same as happened decades ago as ‘the Allies’ joined together to defeat Hitler? Not only was there moral support for freedom, but over a period of time, many nations declared war on nations they felt were threatening that freedom. I think the prevailing consensus of the West is that war was necessary—the ‘just war’ theory. Of course, the same logic has been promoted for outside involvement in many other countries since then, including Iraq and Afghanistan. But does that make it right? Crucial, pivotal times. Times that can challenge us to think. And I think thinking is an undervalued, overdue activity.
Life has taken me from the rather predictable working year after year and not feeling fulfilled to serving with Youth With A Mission as a missionary in my homeland of Canada. I am presently active in Victoria, with responsibilities and interests in our YWAM office, and out on the street. (and feeling more fulfilled than at any time earlier in my life.)