Jesus is so difficult to follow. The problem with him is that just when you want him to conveniently approve of something you do he says just the opposite.
So just as America – “one nation under God” – celebrates the death of Osama Bin Laden the words of Jesus, uttered on a middle-Eastern hillside and recorded in Luke’s Gospel in the Bible come back to haunt them.
27 But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you.
29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.
30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.
33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.
34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners’, expecting to be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
That’s just not in the US rhetoric now, at least not in the public rhetoric.
“Rot in hell,” says the he
“It’s a good day for America,” says President Obama.
“Obama 1, Osama 0,” said one banner.
But Jesus won’t let it go; the Bible won’t let it go. As Brian McLaren says on his blog: ‘Joyfully celebrating the killing of a killer who joyfully celebrated killing carries an irony that I hope will not be lost on us. Are we learning anything, or simply spinning harder in the cycle of violence?’
I remember reading Barack Obama’s first book with a rising sense of hope that here was a leader who would be different; who would be a man of moral purpose. Now as I hear him utter the same things previous world leaders have said – including past and present British Prime Ministers – my heart sinks.
Where is the change I hoped for, and would have voted for if I was American?
And then a little voice whispers in my ear as I sit comfortably in a British coffee shop – well, ironically an American coffee shop in Britain! ‘Do you remember what the church in Corinth was told?’
1 Corinthians 10
Warnings From Israel’s History
1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
2 They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
3 They all ate the same spiritual food
4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.
8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did— and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.
9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did— and were killed by snakes.
10 And do not grumble, as some of them did— and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come.
12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
It can be so easy to point the finger from the comfort of my coffee. I am still uneasy – more than uneasy, I am deeply disturbed by the kind of triumphal scenes being paraded at the death of Bin Laden.
I also know, however, that it’s too easy to point a finger and claim to be prophetic and at the same time be on the brink of an equally-catastrophic failure of my own. I may not have ordered anyone’s killing but I don’t have the weight of the Western world on my shoulders each day.
It is the duty of every follower of Christ to speak out against injustice and to remind the world that the crucified carpenter would not let violence be the answer. But we also have to guard our own hearts. As someone used to remind me – every time we point our finger at someone, three others point back at ourselves.