Some Further Thoughts on Osama bin Laden’s Death

For the sake of clarity, one should never condone violence, especially from a Christian perspective. The actions of Osama bin Laden were and will continue to be atrocious. The damage inflicted on American soil left a gaping wound that still needs healing. Yet for the sake of consistency, the actions of the American President cannot be condoned either. When violence begets violence, the world continues to suffer. The cycle never ends. The death of bin Laden has not solved that problem. Violent responses are short term solutions that provide a temporary ‘peace’ and ‘security’ that later gives way to further violence.

The cross of Jesus Christ provides a way beyond the downward spiral of violence. Good Friday was celebrated a few weeks ago remembering that cross. Many may wonder of the good brought about by the death of a Jewish peasant. Violence was inflicted on Jesus by Roman authorities with the approval of the religious establishment. His death was the result of the greatest injustice but by the power of God is transformed into the greatest justice. Only after resurrection was it seen as good. The powers of satan, sin and the world system found an end in the death of Jesus Christ. In the resurrection we see the possibility of new life.

In the Pauline letter to the Colossians 2:15 it states:

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (NIV)

Some view the ‘powers and authorities’ as the beings in the angelic realm, others as the reality of satan and his minions or as other’s see it, the worldly system of power. Whatever these powers may truly be, the cross is the place of their defeat and exposure.

So what does that mean for Christians today and the response to violence? The eternal moment of the cross of Christ is where the powers eventually lose. The cross of Christ exposed the true nature of those powers, that in Revelation are portrayed as beastly. Ultimately, it should provide Christians with the strength and courage to face the monstrous powers of violence and dominance and speak the truth in love.

The difficulty of walking in such a way is the violent nature of our own hearts. The natural desire to strike back is deeply ingrained in us. The good news is that that nature died on the cross too. The way of Jesus is now a possibility. It is only by the grace of God one can go this way. May we always keep the cross before us even in the midst of a violent world.

Peace,

JWR

Some Thoughts on Osama bin Laden’s Death

“…theUnited States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden” -President Obama

I thought I would react to hearing such news in a different way. I thought I would be happy, but I’m not. Sure, Osama was an architect of mass murder that put Manson to shame. Thousands of American troops have been and still are in harms way in response to his actions. I respect the work they do. Thousands have died both military and civilian. I mourn such loss. Was this an act of justice or an act of national vengeance? I tend to think the latter.

So now America rejoices. I get it. I just cannot and will not participate in it. This has solved nothing. Osama reaped what he sowed. Will the violence end with his death? I doubt it. He was considered the head of the snake; destroy the head and terrorism dies. But what if it is a hydra and not a snake? Could this action by America make things worse? Possibly…We just made a martyr.

Now I would like to be a martyr not in the sense of me dying right now for my faith, but rather to be a witness to the living God. Any notion of divine justice must go back to the cross of Christ. Any evil, human or demonic; any suffering, personal or massive must be seen in the light of the cross. The power of satan was defeated at the cross, Jesus Christ exposed the powers that be for what they are, the monstrous system and actions that seek to dehumanize and destroy humanity. This is why I cannot rejoice over Osama’s death. The power that is America was subjected to the cross just as much as Al Quaeda. So as a Christian, where does your loyalty lie?

I hear the reports of chanting in the streets. This is the sound of Empire. America is in a dangerous place and the church in America even more so. Many an American church has co-opted to politics to justify certain political agendas. This has occurred on the Right and the Left. If the church is to be an expression of the Kingdom of God in the earth, she should reflect the values and attitudes of God’s Kingdom. Don’t get me wrong, I love and pray for the American people. I also love and pray for the people of Venezuela,Iran,China,Sudanand so many others. My ultimate allegiance lies with the Kingdom of God. The kingdoms of this world will eventually fade, includingAmerica. When? No one but God knows. In the meantime, I will seek God’s Kingdom and yield to the peaceful and suffering Lord who has called me to it.

May the peace of Christ be with you,

JWR

Easter and the Newness of Each Day

Easter Sunday is here and with it the Easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies and baskets filled with sugary treats. Yet even in the midst of the sugar high most children will be under, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ will occur worldwide. This one day the global church remembers the raising from the dead of the crucified Christ. The celebrations will take many forms from the solemn ritual of the Mass in Catholic churches to the exuberant worship in Pentecostal churches. Others will wake early to worship as the sun rises on a new day. Nevertheless, why limit the celebration to just one day?

This is not to downplay the importance of Easter. The point for Christians is everyday can be a celebration by remembering resurrection daily. Within the Evangelical tradition, the greatest symbol of death and resurrection is baptism. Usually, this is a matter of full immersion or a dunking as some refer to it. Going under the water represents death and coming up from the water represents resurrection. Carried further, the death is that of one’s old life, broken and disconnected from God and the resurrection is the newness of life as a new creation.

The symbolism of death and resurrection reveals itself in another place that is more mundane but the figurative parallels remain. That symbol is the simple act of sleeping and waking. Sleep represents death and waking resurrection. Various places in scripture mention those who are dead as sleeping. Therefore, with our sleep at night, we shadow the reality of death. With our waking, we embrace the resurrected reality of a new day and new possibilities.

The difficulty of remembering the death and resurrection of Christ in this way is its happening everyday. The daily occurrence of it leads to a taking for granted of this mundane aspect of life. Developing such remembrance on a daily basis will take time like any habit. Pick a few days or a week to start. Meditate on the cross of Christ before sleeping and consider the resurrected Christ upon waking. Over time, every day can become a celebration of Easter.

Grace and peace,

JWR

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Doubts

When I was 22 and recently married, I faced a time of extreme doubt. I was fresh out of college with a BA in philosophy and ready to take on grad school at SWBTS. Yet in the midst of preparing for the academic journey, God seemed silent and distant and missing. This went on for months (in hindsight, roughly 9 months) with no relief, just a leaden sky. One way of describing this experience is that in a similar way it was like Descartes’ use of doubt to find that place of certainty, but not voluntarily so.One day this spiritual drought ended and the one place that I found as unshakeable was the cross of Christ.  The historical reality and spiritual significance of that event gave me courage to move on with my spiritual journey.  That defining moment in my life, that moment of great clarity I may never forget, especially since I remember standing in the  kitchen of my  apartment, shaken to my core.

I doubted but began to believe again. If I could not doubt the cross, I could not doubt the resurrection. If I could not doubt the resurrection, I could not doubt his ascension. If I could not doubt his ascension, I could not doubt the giving of the Spirit on Pentecost. The narrative of the church from before creation to now, was the story I was involved in now.  That moment of being shaken was the beginning of a work that, however haltingly it proceeds, is necessary for Christ to be formed in me.

Yet, this spiritual formation of Christ in my life is not for me alone but for his bride, the church. It is Christ in the community that is paramount. The work of the cross in my life has been limited by my despising the body that Christ seeks to bring life. I nursed some deep anger, bitterness and disappointment because of the expectations of some brothers. I was stubborn for far too long. I was still doubting but in a different way. I doubted that the Spirit of God could work in others like She was in me. I had expectations that were shattered and this threw me off balance. I doubted the freedom God has to work through whom and in whom He desired. I am slowly beginning to see the body of Christ with new eyes. For that I am grateful to God.

I still doubt but I still have faith. The doubt is my own, the faith is from God. I am beginning to trust in God in ways I never imagined. I believe in the cross of Christ and His resurrection from the dead. I believe in His church that is called to be His bride, body and temple. Though I doubt, I will trust the One who died and reconciled the world to God. Though I doubt, I will trust God’s grace even in the midst of my unbelief. The love of God is greater than any doubt. One day doubt will fade away. But in the meantime, doubt can purify and temper our faith. In some instances, it may be doubt that drives us to total abandonment to God.

Grace and peace,

JWR

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