arts, movies, music, pop culture · Church

the costs of war

I remember European history from high school. I remember a teacher saying something like, War is not about right and wrong. It’s about time and resources. Meaning if you have the time and resources, you’ll win.

It’s the kind of lesson that really sunk in, obviously. Cuz I went to high school a few minutes ago. I remember thinking how horrible it was that people who rose up and fought with their very lives wanted to believe in something bigger than themselves only to face the reality that it was, essentially, a gentlemen’s game of Strategy.

We’ve been facing this principle since Year One. Well, figuratively speaking. Somewhere in there the very first murder occurred. Cain killed Abel. (I also remember in college a friend singing that to the tune of that worship song “He is able” and having a good laugh. It’s only funny because it is.) What was Cain warring against? Was he fighting Abel? Was he having some epic battle between good and bad? We teach it this way to kids because that’s what makes the most sense to us. The reality, though, as we dig deeper and hit closer to home, is that we are all at war with the same things Cain was, “Sin” and specifically jealousy, resentment, greed. Cain wanted to keep the best for himself while Abel offered the best to God. Cain was resentful that Abel was more pleasing to God, but instead of changing his heart and attitude, he killed his brother.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” – Gen 4 NIV

What I’ve seen unfold in the past week is a war. But we think of ourselves as Abels when we’re really Cains. We think we’re right and that we’re just defending what is right and good and true, but at what cost?

There are two questions I’ve been asking myself lately. Well, more than two, but these are the ones relevant to this here blog. 1) What am I willing to pay to get what I want? And 2) what am I actually, currently paying right now that I didn’t really mean to?

Have you ever gotten your credit card bill and thought, who has my card?! It’s too easy to charge up a card. I know. I’ve been caught in a trap of paying for things without thinking and considering the real costs involved. I’ve been caught in being deceitful about money. I’ve had to confess to years of lying and covering up and letting my finances spin out of control. I had to take a good, hard look at my heart and my desires.  I had to consider what costs – figuratively and literally – I was willing to pay for getting what I wanted. Or at least what my sinful heart wanted. I didn’t even really consider what exactly I was doing and why. I let the war rage on and fought all the wrong sides, the side of truth and decency and integrity.

I share all that to say that it’s so easy to get caught up in the deceitfulness of our own hearts and minds. We spin on thoughts in our heads and rationalize and debate within about how right we are and how wrong others are, but do we recognize just how deceitful we can be, even to ourselves? What you think can be absolutely true, but how we carry that truth and how we treat others in the light of that truth is everything. Maybe you don’t struggle with money. Maybe you don’t struggle with things that I do. But you struggle. Do you recognize that struggle? Can you name it? Do you understand it? What are you willing to pay to wage war on it and rid your soul of it? We’ve been spinning for years now, taking sides, launching missiles at each other. It’s time to point our weapons somewhere bigger and darker – our own hearts. And we need to do it yesterday.

There is one who saves.

I keep thinking what we really need now is a hero. No, really, Tina, we NEED another hero. We need a person of integrity and honor, above reproach. We need someone we all can agree on as good and fair and decent. We all just want to believe that person exists somewhere and we’re waiting for him to ride in on his trusty steed and save the day. And because we’re an impatient people, we fight while we wait. We fight for our freedom because we think that’s the way to win and to get somewhere else, beyond Thunderdome, beyond Rome, uniting the clans, etc. etc.

As Christians, we’re already free. We already have our Hero and He has already showed us a better way. We’re so darn stubborn! I’m stubborn. Why do I think I have to fight with people? What wars am I running into, sword drawn and rage streaming? We haven’t even wiped the blood off our blades from the last battle.

And there is always blood. There are always hurt and pain and confusion. There are always casualties. There are always broken relationships, wounded spirits, depleted resources. Still we fight. All the wrong things – people, namely, everyone else’s “errors” specifically.

We need our Hero to come and save the day. We need our Hero to remind us of the great love that saved and continues to save us from ourselves. We need our Hero to point us to the doom we would face without him. The book of Jude lays out the pending doom of those who “are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” And then, Jude says to US as Christians:

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire…

What would happen if the Church rose up and showed mercy? What would it look like to actually turn the other cheek? How can we be merciful to those who don’t believe as we do and love them well, even better than we love ourselves? Have we seen these things in action? Have we been looking to our Hero? Action hero? ahem…

Give us grace, dear God. More and more.

And…

Here… because we need this right now…

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