The Trump Administration’s killing of these two men on January 3, regardless of their offenses, is evil, going against God’s command: “thou shall not kill” and Jesus’ command: “love your enemies.” It also threatens to plunge the United States and the Middle East into a major war leading to far more death and destruction.
As we hear critiques and defenses, and brace ourselves for retaliatory violence and retributive counter measures, let us consider Jesus’ seeing Jerusalem and weeping over it, and practice something like this ourselves, remembering his highly relevant words:
“If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.”
Jesus could see that his own people were rejecting him and his way of being Messiah through giving his life in selfless love. Jewish religious leaders and Roman authorities would soon collude to crucify him. Jesus warns his people of the consequences.
“For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
Jesus’ warning came to pass in 70 CE, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.
Now we’re witnessing a similar dynamic. Trump and his supporters, and so many others who choose power and violence, become blinded to the things that make for peace. Jesus’ warning of destruction is prophetic critique: “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” We have already seen too many deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else the United States has intervened militarily.
Now it is urgent (as it has always been) for followers of Jesus to publicly choose him and his way of suffering love over threats, sanctions and violence. Followers of Jesus are his ambassadors, called to embody his life-giving love, so clearly stated in the famous John 3:16-17.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
In our travels around the world Gracie and I regularly encounter people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and other Muslim majority countries. Today I sat on a nine-hour flight from Seattle to Frankfurt beside a man from Egypt and Gracie sat beside his niece. We had good conversations about faith and politics, and Gracie prayed for his niece’s ears that were in great pain. We exchanged emails and he even invited us to visit them in Egypt.
Though we are US Passport holders, we see our primary identity as citizens of Jesus’ Kingdom. As ambassadors of the Kingdom of God we must differentiate ourselves from our country of origin and its policies, bearing witness to Jesus, Prince of Peace.
I long to see fellow Christian brothers and sisters be more fully given over to their baptismal, heavenly identities, distancing themselves from leaders and policies that do not reflect Jesus Christ.
Jesus did not come to judge the world but to save the world, and we are called to join him in his mission. We long to see a movement of intercession and peacemaking grow, that will effectively address world and local hot spots.
I have witnessed the power of prayer as we have interceded for violent offenders in our community over the past years. In one case some gang members declared war on the local police department, engaging in a prolonged shoot out. We began to intercede for the shooters- that none of them or the police would be killed. While one of the police officers lost his eye site, a tragic outcome, the shooters were apprehended without loss of life. The main shooter has become a follower of Jesus in jail.
More recently a young man brutally shot and killed another young man in our town. I put out a call to prayer that he would be apprehended without loss of his or anyone else’s life. He was soon arrested without further incident. I have met up with him several times and he has surrendered over his life to Jesus. Both men will now have the opportunity to serve as ambassadors for Christ in the Washington State prison system.
As Donald Trump vows to bomb 52 Iranian sites should Iran retaliate against US targets for killing Suleimani, I invite you to join me to pray and work for peace. I also invite you to pursue the renewal of your mind through regular Bible study. Check out the first volume of 13 of 52 Bible studies I’m publishing, Guerrilla Bible Studies, Volume 1, God’s Surprising Encounters, available here.