“War is hell,” or so they say. It’s most definitely an expression of hate, fear, dread, contempt, mistrust, and anger (among other things). A lot of people are gonna die.
The church in many ways is almost the antithesis of war. The church certainly comes with a mission almost diametrically opposed. The church comes to storm the gates of hell which cannot prevail. The church comes with a mission for peace and love, of trust, hope and love, of patience, forgiveness, and love.
The church today is not nearly as interested, it seems to me, in storming the gates of hell and prevailing there as it is in joining the war effort of hell. The church is too busy siding with… siding with “The Americans” or “The Allies” or “The Republicans” or … or… or… who now? Donald Trump???
This factionalism is deadly to the church, yet anymore, the church seems to think it is life-giving for America, or that this factionalism is okay with God in our nation, or worse yet that he endorses it as though the church needs to do it for nation’s sake. Hey, I’m just distilling what I read in the news.
Old Story #1
There’s a story (I’ve blogged it before) about David Lipscomb (most of you Christians never heard of him except a few in Tennessee or a few (like me) who studied Restoration History in school) who owned a farm near Nashville during the Civil War. His farm is now the site of Lipscomb University. It’s also the site of the Battle of Nashville.
As the story goes (at least as I regurgitate it), Lipscomb refused to take sides in the war. He had church brothers and sisters in both the North and the South, and his allegiance was with Jesus and their family unity rather than any small-minded thing like national identity, policy, or agenda. He would preach blistering sermons about church unity asking the brethren how they could make widows of their southern sisters and orphans of their northern brothers’ children.
As legend has it, he was so staunch and vocal as to raise the hackles of a lot of folx on either side, and eventually even the likes of Nathan Beford Forrest (founder of the KKK) sent a spy to listen to him preach one Sunday to determine if Lipscomb was with the North or the South. According to the legend, the spy returned to Forest and reported that he did not know if Lipscomb favored either the North or the South, but it was clear he stood with Jesus.
That’s a church attitude our world is in sore need of today, y’all.
They say that when the war came to Nashville, the battle started at one side of Lipscomb’s farm and ended on the other, yet Lipscomb stayed home during the fight. He turned his home into a hospital for the wounded and treated soldiers from both sides.
That took some kind of moxie.
Actually, it took the love of Christ to do that.
There’s uncommon valor, and then there’s Christian love. Lipscomb shows us that.
There are, of course, a number of things we can do as a church today to wage peace at the gates of hell and prevail there – even in the face of WWIII. The strategies we have are largely symbolic, but that in no way means they lack substance.
Old Story #2
I recall another story (I’ve posted this one a time or two also on this blog also) told by a preacher from Shoreline, Washington when I visited his church on July 4, Sunday, 1999. That preacher was Milton Jones who spoke about how he was a young campus minister at the University of Washington way back in 1979 when suddenly the news headlines were flooded with the Iranian hostage situation. Like everyone else in the country, Jones watched in horror as the Iranians took our embassy hostage and led them out in blindfolds.
Jones told of how he met regularly for prayer with a group of young ministers, and this news item quickly became the dominant topic of discussion in their meetings. These young ministers all the way up in Seattle, Washington felt impotent. What could they possibly do to help the hostages in Iran? Yet that is all they wanted to do.
Well, of course, they decided to pray on it. And after some prayer, the idea hit one of the boys, a school as big as UW might have some Iranian students. If there were any, they surely would not be feeling very welcome in the US about then. Maybe these ministers should reach out and check on them.
Sure enough, they found a roster with two young women attending school from Iran. They went to their apartment and knocked. And they found the women scared to open the door, scared to leave the apartment for school, for work, for food. And this opened an opportunity then for ministry. The Christian boys scheduled themselves to escort the women everywhere they went and did this for months.
The women came to rely on the ministers, and one of them eventually felt called to convert from Islam to Christianity. Being only too happy to baptize her, it wasn’t until she was rising up from the water that one of them asked whether this would put her life in jeopardy upon her return home. It did. She literally gave up her life for Jesus.
Suddenly, the boys began fighting to get her asylum in the US, which at that time became particularly hard to do for Iranians! But if this girl went home at the end of her semester, she would be put to death upon arrival. They were desperate. But after going to court on her behalf, she was granted asylum and eventually became a US citizen.
That is good church work storming the gates of hell.
We need more of that kind of thing today. Today especially. The people of God need to mobilize for this fight. Not to go shoot and kill people, but to glorify God.
Let me state very clearly at this point that I personally feel a deep burden for Ukraine. My best friend from college is from Ukraine (though he is American now). I never visited the place, but I have this personal connection, and I feel shocked by the cruelty I find there in the headlines night after night just like so many of my neighbors.
I too feel an urge to travel there and fight. Not that I am a good soldier; I’m not. Not at all. But I FEEL that urge. The injustice is sickening to me.
I applaud all the care for Ukraine I see at turn after turn between fundraisers, charity, kindness – especially for refugees.
But now is the time to think about Russians. Russians are people too. In God’s kingdom, Russians and Ukrainians are brothers who lay down their lives for one another in love. How can my church in Lubbock, Texas glorify God in such a way that at least some Russians as well as Ukrainians see that?
I propose hospitality. (It’s not the only way, but I will propose it.)
If you can host a Russian in your home to the best Christian love and charity you can offer, NOW is the time to do it. If you can host a Russian and a Ukrainian, all the better. Let us come to the Table the Lord prepares in the presence of enemies, and let’s see God there.
Please pray on such things. If you can’t find a Russian, pray for one and consider inviting a Democrat. Who knows? You might just bring some healing there at that gate of hell if you do.
We are up against WWIII now. This term for it pervades headlines every single day as the world seeks answers in “sanctions,” “sending weapons,” or in testing nuclear missiles. Seriously, the whole world turns out looking for answers in such things, but you are the church, the body of Christ. You have bigger agendas and more mysterious tactics. You have the love of God which the gates of hell cannot prevail against.