Espirational Faith

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." –The Apostle Paul


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New Year – Old Wars

This article was written as an answer to a post made by a person in a discussion forum several weeks ago. I am reposting this today, New Year’s Day of 2018, as my response to her and anyone else’s fearful statements to the way terrorism seems to have a goal of annihilating everyone who are not Islamic and how it appears the only thing that can be done is to oppose such a religious faith violently. There is another way.

 

 

Believe me I understand how you feel about how Islam seems as violent as to want everyone who is not of their religion dead. But it is a religion, now hundreds of years old, regardless what we or others call it. My intent in replying to your comment is not to argue with you, but to give another point of view.
Let me ask this, in reality, are any other religions truly much different? We know that the Islamic faith sprung from the tribes’ ancestors by two brothers’ conflict. Most people of faith have read the Old Testament and wondered about the Hebrews being told to perform one battle after another, slaughtering whoever stood in their way, to take over the land promised to Abraham. And the Christians? From the time that believers in Jesus, the Christ, were forced out of Jerusalem in 66 A.D. Christians have stood at attention ready for military battle to defend our faith; believing that if they did not, then who would? This can be seen in international conflicts like the Christian Crusades, and more localized conflicts like the enduring war between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland.
But have those armed military conflicts really settled anything? Oh, certainly you can point at the United States and proclaim that had it not been for the armed revolution against the British that the Freedom of Religion would not be known in that country, or anywhere else. Freedom of religion? Defined how? While the whole purpose of this clause in American government was to sever the relationship between religion and government, it seems that today certain extremists Christian believers are proclaiming that instead the clause means freedom only for those who believe in Christianity. This, therefore, is an action toward establishing Christianity as the state religion, and to make things worse, those who are shouting this should be done are also declaring that anyone who does not believe in Jesus as the Christ should have no rights or possibly be killed. Now tell me, how different is that than what you found in the Quran?
Let’s take just a few moments and reason this whole mess out. WWJD?
Most certainly it is not a pleasant experience to suddenly realize that there are major, and I mean extremely major groups and forces who may feel it is their duty and responsibility to the God they worship to annihilate the rest of us. But, not to make excuses for these peoples’ actions nor to imply they are right, the Islamic/Mohammedan people have, in the past, experienced the same treatment at the hands of the Jews and Christians. The immutable conflict between the two brothers has been on an international, interreligious battleground for millennial ages now and has spread worldwide with no foreseeable end in sight.
So just what is this battle? Is it really who owns a piece of land in the Mid-East? Is our battle really who has been given the true access to the Creator, God of this physical universe?
I can tell you through my years of experience in the study of people, societies and human religions that the people who claim and try to live the Islamic religion are, in their hearts, no more naturally violent than anyone else – Christian or not. Now this can be offensive speech when heard by many Christian believers; but how many true believers have you ever known who would not explain away the words of Christ when it came to explaining their reasons for having a right, a duty, to defend themselves and their families? Yet is this the Christ message they are declaring, or is it something each one of us learn from the time we are born that is our “sacred” duty to do – or be shamed? This radical declaration of possible violent defense of the Christian belief systems is actually no different than what I have heard from the few radical Muslims I have had discussions with. The teaching of ones right and responsibility to defend their religious roots and existence is universal, though the roots may be on different religious plants.
But there is a different group of people in every religion, every country, and every group of well-meaning individuals who are less than benevolent, less than pure, less than holy. While there are people in every religion in the world who try to live a pure, clean and holy life, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other religions alike, there are others who would prefer to disrupt the balance and claim such spiritual riches as being theirs and their groups’ alone. These extremists are the ones who declare that everyone who does not believe as they do and/or serve their purpose should die. They are the political activists who consider no compromise. They are, in short, the terrorists.
Fear is a terrible taskmaster. But, instead of the popular t-shirts with the slogan printed on them stating, “No Fear,” we, as Christians, should be holding up a banner proclaiming “Pure Love.” We are in a spiritual battle during this age, as stated in one of the “Lost Gospels” where the conflict is over good vs. evil, light vs. darkness and truth vs. lies. The truth which Jesus proclaimed is to not fear those who proclaim that darkness and defeat is inevitable, because if we believe that then our actions will become such as to cause that fear to become reality. No our instructions given by Christ was to “occupy” until he returns. Notice there is no mention of doing battle or slaughtering everyone who refuses to believe in Christ. We are to simply occupy. (LUK 19:13)
Strange, isn’t it? If we were all to simply occupy and serve God, as we know him, in our own ways without attempting to say, as would little children, “My God is better, bigger, more powerful than your God,” then go about our daily lives serving God as best we know how, it seems that could be a taste of heaven on Earth?
What do you think?
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“Peter, Put Away Your Sword!”

In a beautiful garden, one familiar to Jesus and his disciples for he had taught them there many times the story of Jesus consummates from one of the Christ attempting to prepare his flock of followers for the inevitable to one where the solders came, with a representative of the high priest, to arrest Jesus. But Peter still could not conceive of what was about to happen. He had conjured in his mind that he would be a general in the Lord’s army which would lead the Hebrew people into a great victory over Rome establishing  them with the leadership they long deserved.  When Peter saw that the soldiers were taking Jesus away as a prisoner he could contain himself no longer. Peter ran to block the way of the entourage with sword drawn and, most likely recognizing Malchus who was representing the high priest at the arrest, swung his sword in an attempt to cut off the head of the intruder. However, not trained as a military man, Peter’s poor aim resulted in the removal of Malchus’ ear, and a very upset Christ who said quietly, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” Then Jesus replaced the ear onto Malchus’ head and proceeded to go with the solders willingly, as Peter remained astonished and confused at what had just occurred causing him even to doubt the very one he had followed for several years. (JOH 18:1-18-NIV) This part of the salvation story is of utmost importance to believers today who try to follow Christ. Here’s why. . .

Throughout human history mankind has been violent. It seems to be an inevitable, almost innate characteristic of people which wells it’s ugly head at sometimes the most inopportune times and, without a doubt, causes reason to question our ability to ever be able to emulate such a Prince of Peace such as Jesus. But that is exactly what those who proclaim Jesus as Lord are called to do.

Jesus knew how difficult such a command would be for us to obey. Jesus explained to Matthew and the other disciples,

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,[d] and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. (MAT 11:11-13-NIV)

Throughout the Old Testament there is presented extreme violence of war after war, murders, slavery, and multitudes of various persecutions while the Hebrew people have attempted to both regain their homeland and serve Jehovah God at the same time. This attempt to live successfully in two realms in the same lifetime creates chaos in a person’s mind and is, according to Jesus, impossible (MAT 6:24). However the materialism of property on which to live which can be called one’s own is very important in our minds if we are to feel freedom in this world. Thus, it seems, we are willing to fight and die for it.

But Jesus never gave the order to Peter to defend his right to movement, or his ability to teach of the Kingdom of God, nor for any other purpose. Earlier he had pleaded with his father (Jehovah) that the fact that he would be tried and executed as a common criminal be removed from his future, but realizing that plea was impossible if he were to carry out his mission he accepted it and went on toward his fate (MATT 26:39-42-NIV).

This is why scriptures indicate that even though he could call upon multitudes of angels to defend him during the crisis of his judgement here on Earth, he did not. He accepted his fate, written by his trusted father/god, and “marched on” toward a greater victory without violence. (MAT 26:53-NIV)

By accepting his responsibilities, Jesus was teaching his disciples and us one of the most important truths ever to be expressed in this world to know the difference between being an animal or a child of the living God. To recognize our relationship to God means to accept there are greater things in the universe than the physical and higher realms of reality than what we can sense with our common five senses. In short, violence leads to violence and in reality accomplishes nothing, but the way of peace creates within people the reality that there is a way through which all can be accomplished.

This message has been expressed by several other great spiritual leaders, both Christian and those of other faiths, through man’s short history. Ghandi’s leadership to India’s independence, Martin Luther King’s bold leadership of the black revolution in the middle of the  twentieth century and others have walked in great physical danger, some even to be killed, to promote right thinking and right actions in a peaceful way.

But the Christian faith has been riddled with violence ever since our Lord’s resurrection. Ever since the escape from Jerusalem when Rome came into the City of Jerusalem and destroyed the Hebrew temple there, the believers who call themselves Christian have armed themselves and gone to battle in defense of their faith. The Christian Crusades and other battles which was fought to embolden the Christian believers and to defend their right to exist against those who would argue otherwise.

Even massive worldwide wars like World War II have been promoted as a good thing for Christian believers to do because of the cruel and inhumane things being done by those being fought against. So we could not set back and do nothing while a despot rampaged over Europe, raping the land and slaughtering millions of Jews simply because they existed.

Now, today, we are facing a new yet ever so common a threat to our ability to follow the Prince of Peace. Several years ago this country called the United States was attacked in a very unexpected way. It seemed to be from within, using our own commercial aircraft as weapons and our own fear as the main tool to change this country from within.

What am I saying? Oh, we are not afraid? Don’t kid yourself. If this country is not afraid then why have we developed the most powerful military the world has ever known. Why have we declared war on a group of nationless faces who have likewise declared war on us, and for much the same reasons. And why has our political circumstances in this country become so chaotic that we are considering placing into leadership two questionable choices; either a person who has been struggling with court cases and questionable character during the whole presidential campaign or one who says he will build walls, build defenses, and eliminate certain people and traditional thought which this country has developed and known for centuries. And, furthermore, why is it that from the pulpits of this country’s churches who claim to worship the father of the Pirince of Peace do we hear church leaders telling congregates to arm themselves? Only fear creates such an atmosphere.

The U.S. citizen becomes the modern Peter in this scenario. For too long we have been following our animalistic selves and drawing our swords without thinking that there might be a better way. The Lord’s way. If we strike out with that sword, we could cut off the ear of the priests and political leaders of other countries and for what reason? It would do no good. Those in other places of the world could then not hear us and those we thought were friends would most likely choose otherwise. Could it be that there is a better way? A way of peace. A way of trying to set back and consider what we see and are experiencing before striking out and cutting off the world’s ear causing them to be unable to hear our need for help? After Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, Peter slinked into a corner of the garden palace and found himself denying his faith in the Christ three times. Are we, the nation who has carried the Holy Bible to the whole world, about to have a similar experience? Are we about to deny our faith in the Prince of Peace?

We need to get to a quiet place, pray, observe our circumstances and realize that fear is not the choice, except to fear fear itself. We must make some very hard choices in this country within the next few months. I pray everyone will make the choice best for the Lord we claim to trust. But listen to the Spirit of the Lord, “Peter, put away your sword.” Put away your knives, your guns, your bombs and your rockets. Put away your fear. For even as Christ had to drink of the cup his father gave him, so must we drink ours. Even as Christ had to die to show mankind mercy by saving us from Satan’s fear, so must we deny that fear from causing us to live without peace.

shalom aleichem