I want to get this off my chest before the week is out.
I have asked the question before “Politics: The New Religion?” It seems that this ideological bent even pervades the world’s churches.
I go to a Church of God (COG), and so I don’t know what happens in other churches unless someone tells me about it. You know, I would have thought that the idolizing of the military and government within US mainstream churches would have died out with all of the disgraces of the Iraq War still haunting this nation. I guess I was wrong. I guess that worldly churches are still putting up videos of fighter pilots and glorifying the taking of lives. Let’s face it: No matter how “just” a war may be (which in itself is a debatable point, mind you), it is still war and it still involves the taking of human lives – humans who are created in the image of God.
And yet, the venom of the anti-war crowd is still a surprise. OK, rail against the war all you want, I say. However, to say you will not sing patriotic songs like “Battle Hymn of the Republic”? OK, there are some in the COG that would agree with that position (I read it in print several years ago, so forgive me for not giving a link). No display of the flag? Hmmm, a little more extreme perhaps. The killer, though, was “Will not ask God to bless America.” Really? Aren’t we supposed to pray for our nation and its leaders?
Going to Extremes – It’s the Human Thing to Do
It seems to be a propensity of human beings to go to extremes on matters large and small. If you don’t believe that, look at the 400 or so organizations that call themselves “Church of God” and the minutia that separates most of them, and you can easily see the extremes!
My father at one point prohibited us from saying the Pledge of Allegiance in class because he considered the flag idolatrous. Even worse, giving allegiance to a symbol was like praying to it. While he had a point, I would think most in the COG these days would consider that somewhat extreme.
I am not unsympathetic with the anti-war crowd. I will concede that much of what is being described is Temple Prostitution. I will also concede that Jesus said to love your enemies. The traditional COG view has always been that this is not God’s Kingdom, so we are not to be involved in its wars and politics.
Yet, I have to wonder about statements like, “Is there in American history any war, military action, CIA covert action, or foreign intervention of any kind in any country that was for the purpose of defending our freedoms mentioned in the Bill of Rights?” Memorial Day started sometime after WWII, so did you ask that question of any of the vets from that war?
Rod of Iron
I will submit to you that God is anti-war but not anti-punishment. God has and will again use war as a means of punishing nations. Jesus Himself will rule with a “rod of iron” (Rev 2:27; 19:15).
It is a pet peeve of mine that people will try to soften the “rod of iron” rule. Notice that it is NOT a shepherd’s rod. It is a potter’s rod that will break vessels “to shivers”. The word for “rod” is “rhabdos” and simply implies the shape. However, the words “rod of iron” form an idiom when applied to kings according to Strong’s G4464, “with a rod of iron, indicates the severest, most rigorous rule”.
I’m going to write a followup article on The Rod of Iron today and post it for the Reflections piece for Sunday, so stay tuned! It actually has a tie-in with the Holy Spirit.
“War to End All Wars”
WWI and WWII had this in common: They were both proclaimed to be the “War to End All Wars”. Yet, that has turned out to not be true. Mankind will march straight forward to Armageddon. It will take the return of Jesus Christ to truly stop all wars.
Yet, how will He do it? Will He sit down and reason with His enemies? Not at first! They will turn and try to fight Him!
And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
~ Rev 17:12-14
Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.
For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
…And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.
~ Zec 14:1-3, 12
Doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it? Yet, that is how Jesus will ultimately bring peace. He will force people to obey, for their own good!
Some think Jesus came to bring peace. Not in this age!
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
~ Mt 10:34
Thankfulness, Not Idolatry
Let us not be confused about the issues. The world will have its wars. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the US enjoy a certain amount of freedom. Some of that is due to our Puritan work ethic. Some of that is due to our founding fathers appealing to God for protection when they broke away from England. Some of that is due to righteous (at least by man’s standards) governance. Some blood was spilled during our history, and yes sometimes it was necessary for our freedom.
Obviously, God had a hand in all of this. Does that take away from the sacrifice that some gave for our country?
So, while uniforms and flag waving can quickly lead to idolatry, let us not throw out the baby with the bath water. We are supposed to pray for our country. We are supposed to pray for our leaders. We should be grateful for the freedoms that God has given us, even those given through the blood sacrifice of men and women who believed in something greater than themselves.
Yet, let us look forward to a day and time when wars will no longer be the norm. Let us truly pray, “Thy Kingdom come.”