Yesterday I preached on the story of Joseph and his brothers from Genesis 37. Arrogant Joseph with his multicolored coat, and his brothers who plotted to kill him when they saw him coming. This story resonates in light of the violence and hatred and death in Charlottesville, Virginia, just 110-miles north of where I live.
Joseph and his brothers illustrate the worst in our society today — division, hate, racism, and violence. Often, our first knee-jerk response to those with whom we disagree is to violent, vengeful thoughts. This Joseph story — with its division, hatred, and violence — is as old as humanity, and sadly often repeated.
Here’s the audio of my sermon yesterday. It’s only 18-minutes, but I think you’ll find it helpful. This is not about confederate monuments or free speech or political parties — its about violence, hatred, and vengefulness. These are never morally right, whether the cause is repugnant or righteous. Jesus has called his followers to respond in a totally different way from our society’s default to violence. Listen and tell me what you think. And pray for Charlottesville…and our nation.
President Barack Obama has captured the imagination of the world, and by doing so has earned the world’s most prestigious peace award, The Nobel Peace Prize. Like millions of Americans I woke up this morning to the stunning news that the President had been awarded the Peace Prize. I congratulate him because I believe he has elevated America again to a position of leadership in the international community.
My commitment as a follower of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, means that I am theologically predisposed to peace here on God’s good earth. Jesus’ encouraging words — “Blessed are the peacemakers” — have more than just a spiritual application. Jesus himself lived in an era in which the Pax Romana came at the end of a Roman spear. I believe he understood well the need for both political and spiritual peace among humankind.
Of course, there are those who will seek to detract from the award to the President. For the skeptics, the naysayers, and the cabal of critics, my question is this — “Why wouldn’t we want to be known as a nation of peacemakers?”
I am reading Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and The Path to War in Vietnam. The thing that strikes me so far in this book is the casual attitude those in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations had toward escalating the war there. If we have learned anything in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan it should be that war does not guarantee peace. I have long contended that one cannot fight for peace. You can fight for a host of other issues, but peace is never achieved by fighting. Peace comes by seeking peace, by peacemaking as the first order of concern.
I realize that many of you may disagree with me, and that is your privilege to do so. But this morning I am heartened at the news that the world recognizes Americans have the capacity to make peace, as well as wage war. What do you think?