At War: No more tears
In the Biblical vision a time shall come when there will be no more tears. The apocalyptic prophet John has God’s vision unveiled to him and the arc of creation bends to a time when God will, “wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
I see a world without tears as well. Only our lack of tears is a gross parody of this vision.
Our country considers yet another military conflict in which we will shed blood in the name of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
A great many of us are convinced the only way to be safe in this world is to pack death in a holster on our hip as if it is a casual thing to sling around destruction in the name of self-preservation.
We adamantly oppose taking steps to improve our health care if we feel it at all impinges on our freedom to play roulette with our own lives… and certain if it means we try to bear some responsibility to care for other people’s lives.
We constantly wish to assert the primacy of our own perspective over our neighbor’s. We are looking for the next opportunity to bite on a good argument like a fish on a hook, but unhappy just debating we move to personal assaults on anyone who holds a different opinion.
We over-work, over-produce, and over-consume to the detriment of the very life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that we are killing to defend. We are a people at war. We are at war with ourselves, our neighbors, and the world. And we don’t have any tears left to shed. No more tears.
… and yet…
Those words ring throughout scripture to me. And yet. God constantly hopes… constantly invests in us despite our constant return to the lowest common denominator of human sin. There may be no better articulation of that impulse in us and in God than from the book of Hosea, chapter 11:
1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. 3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. 4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them. 5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. 6 The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes. 7 My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all. 8 How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. 9 I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.
God will not come in wrath… and God didn’t. Jesus was born and lived and died for us. Jesus loved, healed, and taught… but Jesus never killed for us.
And we often feel the world would be a better place if God did kill for us: Kill the vermin, force the “bad” to submit to the “good.” MAKE the world resemble God’s vision of peace. But it wasn’t God’s way… that is our way. And it isn’t working for us.
I do not know the way forward for us. I do not claim great answers to all the problems, or even good ones. I’m not advocating a particular political party’s answer to any of the above challenges, and I certainly do not mean to be anti-American. I love this country, I love my friends and they run the gambit of political and theological ideologies. What I do not wish is to be at war. Not in any meaning of the word war. I do not wish to inhabit a worldview where everyone just goes their own way. I do not wish to succumb to the darkness of believing that an ultra-vigilant and militant society is the only way to secure life. I do not wish to have no tears for the plight of my neighbor… or to cause them.
And I do believe we are capable of better. And that this better I believe in is worth living for – and even being killed for – because I will be in the best of company on the way.
“I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love.” Hosea 11:4
May it be so in my life, in our lives, in the life of the world… at peace. No more tears.