Tag: violence

Peter and Peace

John 13:36-14:4

Sometimes we see a scripture passage in a new way.  That happened to me not long ago.  Read these verses ignoring the chapter break.

John 13 36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”  And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”  37 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.  “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” [New Living Translation].  (Remember, the gospel writer John did not put in chapter divisions.)

Jesus reassures Peter

What connection does Jesus expect the disciples to see between Peter’s “die for you” announcement and Jesus’ assurance that they could trust God, trust Jesus and remember the welcome to be found in the Father’s House?  What did Peter mean to do while “dying” for Jesus?  How do his activities in the Garden help us understand what he means here? (John. 18:11, Mt. 26:52) What kind of misunderstanding of Jesus way does Peter show leading Jesus to call him “satan”?  (Mt. 16:23)

Didn’t Peter intend to do more than die?  His likely heroes are the Maccabees* who liberated Judah from the Syrian Seleucid oppression some 150 years earlier.  They used similar language to support their military activity. They believed that dying (killing?) to liberate Judah provided atonement for themselves and perhaps their fellow citizens.  They defeated the Syrians, freeing Jerusalem and re-establishing pure worship.

On the other hand, opposing the violence of the Maccabees, the editor of the Daniel stories and visions focused on activities that upheld the covenant, encouraged repentance and continued faithful worship, but showed a willingness to defy oppressive rulers.  Daniel and friends were willing face death (Dan. 3:17-18) as did the Maccabees, but did not turn to violence.  As Daniel 12:3 puts it:

Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.

The way of peace

The wisdom teacher who wrote of Daniel and friends would have understood the connection between “trusting God” and “more than enough room in my Father’s home”.   The Daniel editor/writer may have been the founder of the Essenes.  Jesus way of peace showed signs of Essene influence.   That way of peace, Jesus was telling Peter, could lead to death.  Those “rooms” were especially for disciples who were willing to follow Jesus’s command.  Reading I Peter confirms that Peter he had moved from the Maccabean idea that one could gain redemption through death against the enemies of God.  He understood the words of Jesus:

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Mt. 5:43-47 (NLT)

 

*The Maccabees became active around 163 BC.  The Seleucids, an empire headquartered in Syria for some years tortured, killed, sold Jews into slavery and burned of copies of the Torah. In response, a family of five sons, called the Maccabees, led a rebellion against them.  After several years of war and in alliance with the Roman Empire, the Maccabees (later known as the Hasmonians) overthrew the Syrians and set up a free Hebrew state.  The last of the Hasmonians was a wife of Herod the Great of New Testament times.

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Christians & Leaders: Respecting/Laughing

Respecting leaders

Psalm 72

What model do we have for understanding what a leader should be?  This psalm provides important principles.  In the New Testament, Mary confirms these principles in her prophecy before Elizabeth.

Actions worthy of respect:

May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.
May he endure as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

May he rule from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Respect will come

May the desert tribes bow before him
and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba
present him gifts.
11 May all kings bow down to him
and all nations serve him.

More actions worthy of respect

12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long.

Respect and prayer

This Psalm was likely written for David, a military man and apparently a ruler with administrative ability.  The book of Samuel and Kings detail his battles and efforts to establish control over Israel and the areas conquered.  But military and administrative skills are not mentioned here.  Compassion is the main theme for which the King is praised.   We will want to respect leaders who achieve greatness by caring for the poor and helpless.  These verses should also be the content of our prayers for our leaders.

 

Laughing at leaders:  Daniel shows us how

Making fun of those in authority has been long a way of disguising political criticism.  In our day, little effort is made to hide the criticism such as Saturday Night Live, but in the times of autocratic rulers, open satire could bring banishment, imprisonment or death.  Setting the events in long ago and far away provides additional disguise for the criticism of contemporary rulers.  There is Biblical precedent for laughing at rulers.  For the Hebrews who suffered under the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes (ruled 175-164 BCE) the choices were accepting suffering in silence, accepting the Antiochus’ brutal efforts** to make them become like the Greeks or join the guerilla activity leading to active rebellion.  The later leaders of this rebellion were known as the Maccabees.   Making fun of leaders was part of the scheme by the Daniel editor to bring down the oppressive ruler.  One group of Jews relied on the stories and visions of Daniel for guidance.  That guidance included ridiculing the rulers; showing the examples of faithfulness to the Torah of Daniel and friends; and affirming the appropriateness of civil disobedience; and the teaching of wisdom.  Hope in the resurrection completed their arsenal of weapons against the oppressor.

In Daniel one food offered to idols brought wisdom according to the king.  Vegetables, Daniel’s health food, God’s food, did just as well.  The lack of details about the connection between details here and in the Levitical Code suggests that this was more than faithfulness to the food code of Leviticus.

Why would the king kill all of his of his advisors?  The experts listed in chapter two were the king’s chief advisors, religious experts, the spokesmen of the gods.  Probably because this crazy king had forgotten a scary dream.

Arrogant and boastful leaders seem to be present in all ages.  Our Hebrew writer (chapter three) sees God reducing this braggart to a cud-chewer for a year to help him learn humility.

Simple worship characterizes Hebrew ritual.  In chapter four, the odd statue and the variety of participants, plus the repeat in naming them suggests that this is a weird, highly complicated worship setting.  The Hebrews would find this amusing.  This contrasts with the simple power of the four in the furnace.  The humor of the contrast of the wild commands of the kings—contradicting his earlier threats—versus the silent power of the fourth one in the furnace is clear.

Chapter five brings the five-finger terror to the ruling classes of Babylon.  The Babylonians desecrated the temple vessels by using them in a pagan banquet.  This paralleled the pig sacrifice at Jerusalem in 168 BCE.  The overthrow of the Babylonian dynasty affirmed the message of the visions that God would overthrow the evil empires. Violent revolt such as the Maccabees promoted was not necessary.

The foolish Babylonians thought that the “god for a month” plan (Chapter 6) would bring down their enemy. The Babylonian leaders schemed for the rank and status that Daniel was given.  But if they could trick the king (their “god for a month”), Daniel would be fed to the lions. Daniel’s prayers to the eternal God continued, but it was the schemers that the lions consumed.

How God works

Throughout these accounts we see God exposing the arrogance and foolishness of lords and kings. God exposed and defeated them by various means. Faithfulness to God (and in chapter 11the teaching wisdom), not violent action was required of Daniel and friends.  Whether violence was an option is not the question here.  The reality was that God showed how puny and helpless rulers were in the presence of God’s power.  The Daniel writer used humor (as well in the later chapters visions of God’s power) to remind his fellow sufferers that God would defeat their enemies.

 

(*My speculations about humor in Daniel were provided some scholarly support when I discovered an article on court jesters.  David M. Valeta, Court or Jester Tales? Resistance and Social Reality in Daniel 1-6, PERSPECTIVES IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES 32(2005) 309-324.) On Daniel and opposition to Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, see Apocalypse against empire: theologies of resistance in early Judaism.  Portier-Young, Anathea, Grand Rapids, Mich. : William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011

**This is a revision of a blog that appeared earlier on a blog in Compost & Grace

 

 

Waiting on God

 

An exploration of the peace witness of the first (old) testament

 The Psalmist counsels us “wait on the Lord”! What do you think of or imagine yourself doing in response to this counsel? In what situations have you recalled passages from the Bible that include this phrase? In the passages below, what is the context of the word “wait” or “waiting”? For me, passages with this word have suggested prayer and meditation. Is this made explicit in the text? What is the alternative to “waiting”? What more than prayer in suggested by “waiting”? How often does the “waiting” command come in the context of violence? What is the significance of this?

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. Psalm 33: 16-22

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off. Psalm 37:(5-9) 14-15, 32-34

See below for a list of similar passages*

Psalm 33 use of the word “wait” is preceded by description of violence against the people of God. (“Whether the king is to use his great army or not is not clarified.) Action of God’s people is not needed. Waiting leads to affirmation of God’s presence and control of the situation. Note the words “help”, “trust”, “hope” as helper words for “wait”.

In Psalm 37 the situation is bleak. Not just the people of God are the target of the forces of evil, but specifically “the poor and needy”. Violence is what evil people do. The people of God “wait” and “keep his way”. Keeping God’s way refers to covenant/Torah behavior. In the end “the wicked [will be] cut off”.

Is this part of Paul’s source for “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 with Deut. 32:35)? How is Paul’s reminder related to the need to wait? Note surrounding the “vengeance” command we are encouraged to “love”, “seek peace”, and “feed” [your] enemy”. Here we have some of the things from the life and teachings of Jesus that are to the focus the people of God while waiting for God to act.

For further thought:  The “First” Testament basis for the peace understanding of Anabaptists needs additional exploration. There is much violence found in the First Testament.   The New Testament affirms the contrasting thread lifted out here that calls for us to wait on God. From God comes protection and vengeance/justice.

*Similar passages are:  Psalm 25:1-5, Psalm 27: 11-14, Psalm 62:1-7 (See also, Psalm 40:1-3—no suggestion of violence in this passage), Psalm 130:1-6, Proverbs 20:22, Lamentations 3:13-26, Isaiah 30:15-18 (the word “rest” is used in this passage), Micah 7:2-3, 7; Isaiah 40:28-31 (God has just “rescued” Israel from Babylon), Isa. 64:1-4, Zephaniah 3:8

Related concept:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

Before You Punch a Nazi: A New Anabaptist Response to White Supremacy

Before You Punch a Nazi: A New Anabaptist Response to White Supremacy

gathering the stones

There isn’t much to be surprised by in Charlottesville. There’s much to grieve, but none of it should be a surprise. All the elements of Saturday’s events have been in headlines for months, or years, and they are quintessential to this time: cars swerving into crowds; statues of Confederate warriors being removed; white nationalist rallies; Black Lives Matter; pedestrians injured. As if someone scrambled up bits of headlines until it yielded this.

What do we do now? Grief wants comfort. Comfort is action. We want to do something. We have to do something.

[Edit: The original draft of this post faced valid criticism for a why-can’t-we-all-get-along, syrup-y vision of white-Anabaptist heroism. A revised post, with this feedback in mind, is forthcoming in the Mennonite World Review. White Anabaptists have their own history of racism. Critiques of anti-oppression work are meaningless if they are veiled excuses for our own racism…

View original post 1,137 more words

June Notes

Peace prayer for June/July

Pray for the peaceful reunification of North & South Korea. Pray that the food aid the Mennonite Central Committee provides North Korea may show the love of Jesus for all people. — Washington Memo Vol. XLIX, No. 2

Showing compassion is one way to promote reunification.  The Mennonite Central Committee has sent food to North Korea for nearly 20 years.  MCC has provided medical supplies and supported orphanages, also.

The above was taken from the Washington Memo Vol. XLIX, No. 2.  For more information, check out:

washington.mcc.org  or read the blog at washingtonmemo.org

 

Waiting for God

The Psalmist counsels us “wait on the Lord”! What do you think of or imagine yourself doing in response to this counsel? In what situations have you recalled passages from the Bible that include this phrase? In the passages below, what is the context of the word “wait” or “waiting”? In the past I have thought of “waiting” as suggesting prayer and meditation. Is this made explicit in the text?

For the subjects of the Psalm, what would be the alternative to “waiting”? What more than prayer in suggested by “waiting”? How often does the “waiting” command come in the context of violence? What is the significance of this?

Psalm 33:  16-22

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Psalm 37:(5-9) 14-15, 32-34

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

(See below for a list of similar passages*)

In Psalm 33 use of the word “wait” is preceded by description of violence against the people of God. (“Whether the king is to use his great army or not is not clarified.) Action by God’s people is not needed. Waiting leads to affirmation of God’s presence and control of the situation. Note the words “help”, “trust”, “hope” as helper words for “wait”.

In Psalm 37 the situation is bleak. Not just the people of God are the target of the forces of evil, but specifically “the poor and needy”. Violence is what evil people do. In the end “the wicked [will be] cut off”. The people of God “wait” and “keep his way”. Keeping God’s way (v. 34) refers to covenant/Torah behavior. In Isaiah 40, the setting is a bit different. While in these Psalms there is the implication that God will overpower the enemy or the evil Hebrews, that is not as clear in Isa.40:28-31. Is the vindication of the “suffering servant” what one is to wait for?  (See my blog on Isa. 40, “Exodus to Exile”)

Waiting and then what?

Are these “wait” passages behind Paul’s instructions in Romans 12:19 and following? “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 with Deut. 32:35)? How is Paul’s reminder related to the need to wait? The normal response to violence is vengeance.  Note surrounding the “vengeance” command we are encouraged to “love”, “seek peace”, and “feed” [your] enemy”. Here we have some of the things from the life and teachings of Jesus that are to the focus the people of God while waiting for God to act.

The “First” Testament basis for the peace understanding of Anabaptists needs further exploration. While there is much violence found in the first testament, the new testament affirms the contrasting thread lifted out here that calls for us to wait on God. From God comes protection and vengeance/justice.

 

*Similar passages are:  Psalm 25:1-5, Psalm 27: 11-14, Psalm 62:1-7 (See also, Psalm 40:1-3—no suggestion of violence in this passage), Psalm 130:1-6, Proverbs 20:22, Lamentations 3:13-26, Isaiah 30:15-18 (the word “rest” is used in this passage), Micah 7:2-3, 7; Isaiah 40:28-31 (God has just “rescued” Israel from Babylon), Isa. 64:1-4, Zephaniah 3:8

Related concept:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).