Kingdom Come

It’s funny how different people can have such different perspectives of the same event.

I’ve had the fascinating experience of learning about the Vietnam War in Vietnam. You get a few different perspectives. Victorious Northern Vietnam refers to the conflict as “The American War of Aggression” and focuses on the American’s relentless bombings of temples, hospitals, and schools that targeted civilians. The South tends to call it “The American War” and focuses on how America created the conflict with the north and then abandoned the Southern army after Saigon fell. Both of these accounts differ from how the US sees the conflict, which lasted nearly 40 years and saw hundreds of thousands of causalities.

And conflicts rage on around us today, in both our personal lives and across the globe. It’s hard sometimes to keep perspective in the face of pain or loss, but it is indeed of the utmost importance. When different sides tell different truths of an event, it’s easy to get carried away in fear. 

Everyone who was alive on the day has their own recollections of the attacks 17 years ago on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 9/11. I met a British couple who remembers coming home from school to see it on the news as it happened live. I met a man from China who didn’t hear about it until September 12th, because of the time zones. I talked with a Spanish guy who recalls thinking it was part of a new disaster film before he realized it was an actual news broadcast. It was a day that shocked the world and changed the face of globalization forever.

And in the face and memory of such pain and loss and suffering, it is easy to get lost in fear and lose perspective. 

It’s interesting to look back at the New Testament and see some of the perspectives early Christians (who were Jews) struggled with. As the chosen people, the Jews struggled to see how salvation could reach everyone. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he explained, “So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 GNT)

Sometimes, its easy to believe that we are “the chosen people.” It’s easy to think that our perspective is the right one. Author Anne Lamott writes, “You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Paul’s teaching is that all are created equally, regardless of religion, social status, gender, etc. No one is in or out, right or wrong. We are all part of the kingdom of God. 

This is not to say we can’t have pride in or love for our roots, our heritage, or the people most like us. But perhaps we could learn to approach conflict from the way Jesus showed his love for Israel. When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, in Luke 19, his disciples wanted to rally the people, and unite against the oppressive Roman government.  Rome had been ruthless to the Jews of Israel and Jesus had angered Rome by acknowledging the Jews' pain. But Jesus didn’t join in the rallying cry of “us versus them.” 

Instead, Jesus wept. Luke writes, “He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! The time will come when your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close in on you from every side. They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!’” (Luke 19:41-44)

Jesus loved his people dearly, but their pride and bravado kept them from seeing the bigger picture. While they wanted justice for themselves, Jesus was focused on salvation for all. And he wept because he loved them, and their thirst for vengeance was keeping them from understanding his teachings to “love one another.” 

So perhaps on this anniversary of a day filled with so much pain around the world, may we remember that all people come from the same loving Creator. May we remember that in conflict, there is truth on both sides. And may we weep for our loss, and grieve our hurt, so that we do not let our pain keep us from uniting as one Kingdom of God.     ~Amen

Zach Herzog

(Several of my ideas for this devotion were inspired by “Patriotism and Christianity” by Ryan Hamm. In today’s political arena, it is a great read for some perspective on God and Country.) 

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