WORTH FIGHTING FOR
1 John 3: 11 – 18; Matthew 5: 1 – 12
This past week a man in NY City rented a truck, drove onto a bike path, came up behind a group of cyclists and drove over them. 8 people were killed and 11 were injured. After this the man hit a school bus and exited his vehicle shouting “Allahu Akbar”, “God is great”; a phrase that is often used in Islam to give God glory or to express approval the way we Christians may say “Amen!”. In a note left in the vehicle, the man claimed he carried out his act of terrorism in the name of ISIS.
On a global scale Kim Jung Un the president, dictator and self proclaimed “god” of North Korea, is testing long range missiles and nuclear bombs contrary to the United Nations continuing declaration that NK is among the nations banned from having Nuclear weaponry. Kim’s actions are also against NK’s agreement in 1985 to participate in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and to an agreement they signed with the USA in 1994. Since then there have been a number of pacts which have not been upheld. In response, the Americans have kept a close watch on Nuclear development in NK. Tensions between the US and NK stem from the Korean war, NK’s intimidation of S Korea, the military presence of the US in SK (with whom they’re allied) and the USA’s refusal to acknowledge NK as a sovereign nation. This friction culminated in 2013, when Kim Jong-un threatened the United States by declaring that “rockets are ready to be fired at American bases in the Pacific”. The declaration was in response to two American B2 stealth bombers that flew over the Korean peninsula on the day before. NK now has the technology to bomb mainland USA. We all know the response of the American President. So here we sit, while other countries declare how they will respond to aggression from either side and the press speculating we’re on the edge of WW3.
At home, a group of white supremacists in Peterborough organized a rally which didn’t materialize but violence erupted among those who show up to protest the hostility and hatred of the rally planners.
It seems to be that people who act in such ways think they’re cause is right and they are justified in what they do. There’s a good chance they may imagine their actions somehow tip the scale to create justice in an unjust world. In other words, they believe their cause is worth fighting for. Others may not agree regarding their cause, but they would be quick to support and justify a cause about which they have strong feelings. Most of us would say there are very few injustices that validate or excuse acts of terrorism or violence and nothing is worth a third world war.
As Christians we take to heart the admonition of John when he urges us to “love one another” (1 John 3: 11) We do not want to be “like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous… Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.” (vs. 12 & 15). We are followers of Jesus who didn’t take up the sword but chose to change the world by laying down his own life. Of Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”(Matthew 5:9) Yet as we look at our world or when we are confronted by unstoppable evil, as in WW2, we are compelled to ask: is anything worth fighting for? And if so, what? That’s an uncomfortable question for Christians. Throughout the ages we have struggled with whether can we reconcile “fighting for” something with the teachings of Jesus.
At the same time, none of us would deny there are injustices in the world that can’t be ignored. There is violence that needs to be stopped. There are prejudices that do not reflect God’s love for the world. There are unimaginable horrors and crimes against humanity that have gone on too long. Often we ignore these things not because we are struggling with how to follow Christ in a broken world; we shrug them off because we are apathetic – our indignation does not burn hot. Or we are lazy; “fighting for” something takes effort – we need to educate ourselves, we need to act, we need to get involved and that’s a lot of work, especially for something that doesn’t directly affect our lives. Perhaps we don’t “fight for” something because we are fearful – we don’t want to suffer or we don’t want someone we love to suffer. I know some young people who have considered going overseas into hotbeds of violence and my reaction is don’t do that – stay here where it’s safe; let someone else do it. Or in my more apathetic moments – just let them kill each other; not my circus, not my monkey. Often we avoid unjust situations because we feel powerless; maybe we see ourselves as too old or too young or too small in any number of ways – what impact could we possibly have on a situation that’s outside our sphere of influence? We can’t be worried about everyone, so we focus on those closest to us. Worst of all, sometimes we don’t act because we support or agree with the “Cains” of our world. Perhaps we have buried feelings of supremacy or believe in the cause behind the violence or despise a person or group or nation so much that we desire vengeance. So we need to do a careful self-examination of our own motives, or lack thereof, before we even ask the questions.
But they are questions worth asking. “Is anything worth fighting for? And if so what?”
The 2nd WW gave us a clear answer to that question. Peace is worth fighting for. Evil must be stopped. Regimes that exist to invade other countries, commit genocide, terrorize and torture people and dominate the world, all for the ego of a delusional dictator can not be allowed to continue to proliferate with no end in sight.
Freedom is worth fighting for. I once had a young man say to me, “Who says democracy is the best or most Christian form of government?” If I’d been quick I’d have given him Winston Churchill’s response, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Most others, even those that sound good in theory, are either built on the exploitation of common people or exist by oppressing and terrorizing people. Democracy is the only system I’m aware of that allows people to stand up and be counted – quite literally at the voting polls – and who allow for a broad range of individual freedoms. Among those freedoms is the right to worship, to read our Bibles, to pray in public, to speak of our faith, to hold our own beliefs. Democracy allows for freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. These values give us the freedom to criticize the very government that offers us democracy; so within the system is a built accountability to those whom the government serves. I’ve never lived in a country without freedoms but I’m sure that living under great restrictions; being expected to rat out your neighbour or family; being arrested for gathering in public or killed for your faith isn’t better. Freedom is worth fighting for.
Impartiality is worth fighting for – all human beings are equally loved by God. No one should be denied dignity or the same basic rights of the majority, unless they are dangerous to themselves or others. We are all sinful and it adds to our sin when we treat any group of people other than as Christ would treat them. On a larger scale, basic human rights are worth fighting for. Wrongful imprisonment, torture, genocide, rape, enslavement, kidnappings and disappearances, military use or sexual abuse of children, human experimentation are the vile underbelly of humanity.
Basic necessities – food, water, shelter, safety – and benefits such as medical care and education are worth fighting for.
So, am I suggesting, contrary to Jesus and John, that we take up arms, use force, violence and terrorism to fight for these things? Am I supporting a new arms race where instead of stock piling bombs we get them out and use them? Would I suggest chemical or germ warfare are the way to bring about God’s world? Not even a little bit. God’s world can only come about in God’s way. We can fight for things in many ways. Force isn’t always bad; it is power in action and power can be expressed in peaceful ways. We can work in or support world development; we can stage peaceful protests; we can contribute to relief and aid for those who are suffering; we can speak up when we see unfair or unkind treatment; we can write letters and sign petitions; we can give our money to reliable organizations; we can educate ourselves about the lives of others; we can watch the news; we can live peacefully within our homes and our social circles; we can pray and we can share the good news that because of Jesus, there will be a new earth where sin and injustice will cease to exist. And we can embody Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”