The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Memorial Day

There was a time when days like this gave me vaguely fuzzy feelings for reasons I did not fully understand.  Somewhere, someone had “died for me,” and because they made the ultimate sacrifice, I was now “free.” It sounded pretty amazing. Sentimental parallels have been drawn between these combat soldiers and Jesus. I now know that this is as appropriate as drawing sentimental parallels between Jesus and the antichrist.

When I was converted, the love of God was shed abroad in my heart in a powerful way. I had been the antagonist, the rebel against God’s law and kingdom. I had done what was right in my own eyes for a long time; thus I deserved to be destroyed. But God became a man who died to redeem me, and then He patiently sent ambassadors to draw me into fellowship with Him. Why?  What difference does one stubborn human being make?  I still don’t know the answer to that question, but one thing I know:  I am changed, and I can’t go back to what I was. When Jesus called me to die to myself and follow Him, He called me to a life of humbling myself to reach those who don’t deserve being reached (just as I didn’t deserve it).  He sent me to “every creature” with good news that God wants them back and has made a way back, if they will surrender.  Who should be exempted from this good news?  I can think of no one that exists outside of “every creature.”

When I recognized that Jesus was rightfully my Lord, I began to desire His opinion on everything, so that I might live pleasing to Him. Not only did I pray to understand His will, but I studied Scripture carefully apart from the direction of a church. This is not a slam on churches, but I’m pretty sure this is what saved me from adopting the “God and country” divided heart that I see in so many professing believers. (I should confess that I have not always been free of a divided heart in other areas.)  It is a tragic reality that many churches proudly display their divided loyalties by having an American flag right by the altar. Can a man give allegiance to two masters who have entirely different goals?

I had been raised a good patriot who believed in the inherent goodness of America compared to other nations. I believed we were free, we were more moral than others, we only fought in “just wars,” and it was possible to strap on a machine gun and go off to war in the name of God. I carried this cultural baggage into my new relationship with God, but eventually I learned that I had never been truly free; neither had I been more moral than others. True freedom is accessible to God’s children from any prison, and is denied to the richest, most powerful people on the planet.  True morality is only found in Christ. [Oh, but you are spiritualizing. Of course I am spiritualizing. We are supposed to be spiritual people, who do not have in mind earthly things but heavenly.] Further, the idea that I could now kill in God’s name and with His blessing seemed greatly at odds with the Great commission, which has the salvation–not the destruction–of people in view (Lk. 9:55-56). God’s command to Peter to put away his sword was suddenly His command to me, and the example and instructions that Jesus gave to His disciples became the plumbline of my life. That included His instructions in the Sermon on the Mount about loving and blessing my enemies–a portion of Scripture men of all denominations have cleverly twisted in order to grant themselves licentious loopholes.

As a member of God’s kingdom, I learned that I would need to walk in God’s “higher ways” rather than in the earth’s ways. Nowhere can His higher ways be seen more clearly than in the life and death of Christ, the innocent suffering to rescue the guilty. I saw that although we have a crude but necessary form of justice in our country, man’s justice will always pale in comparison with the righteous justice of God coupled with His triumphing mercy.

By looking deeper than the picture painted by mainstream media, I also found that the “just wars” we were waging were actually the ungodly schemes of ungodly men by which they enrich only themselves, and destroy multitudes (including those sainted soldiers who signed up to kill people they didn’t know for a cause they only thought they understood).  I saw patriotism for what it really is–“the pride of life”–something that belongs explicitly to this perishing world. Something a child of God should abhor (I John 2:15-17).  I realized that every country sees itself as more moral, more just, etc., than others, and this is only a collective reflection of man’s propensity to judge himself pure in his own eyes.  Patriotic songs and holidays reflect those twisted sentiments that so defy the Word of God (for all have sinned, Rom. 3:23).

And perhaps most importantly, I saw that all nations are, in fact, raging against and competing with God (Psa. 2). They want our allegiance. They want our sworn oaths of unquestioning obedience (Matt. 5:34).  They want us to sing their praises, their virtues, their supremacy over others. They want us to believe that our freedom comes from what they do with live ammunition. They want us to teach the illusion of their goodness to our children, and lead our children to pledge their loyalty to this god-like protector. And if that is not enough, they want the very bodies of our children to sacrifice on their altar of global power.

Oh, they speak great swelling words about our feigned national righteousness, and most of us desperately cling to the lie that the tree is good (or used to be good), despite the evil fruit abounding in our midst. Why? Perhaps we are just afraid of losing our own little piece of the national pie, and instinctively know that our earthly dividends depend upon earthly schemes. If such is the case, we have proven ourselves lovers of this world and not God.

Why not just admit that Psalm 2 is correct?  Why not admit that most, if not all, of the traditions our fathers handed us are vain and only constitute an empty way of life (I Pet. 1:18)?  Why not admit that men globally killing men they don’t know for reasons they don’t comprehend is a bloody manifestation of the Destroyer’s kingdom, not the Kingdom Jesus founded.

This is why I am so critical of any parallel drawn between soldiers who die in armed combat, and the King of kings who gave Himself–silenced and slaughtered–to be food and life for His enemies.  Can light and darkness be equal?  Is giving your own life to save your enemies the same as giving your own life to kill your enemies? They are not the same! And those who have the living Jesus in them should know better.

If we are deceived any longer about this, we are deceived willingly. There are multitudes of citizens in this internet age who are revealing the secrets of the monster that America is (and this phenomenon is not limited to America). The secrets of the military are accessible to those who actually want to know;  military men are killing themselves in droves for a reason. Any honest person who evaluates the history of this country knows that this was never a land of freedom and justice for all;  there were always at least two classes of people robbed and abused from the beginning (Native Americans and Africans).

But even if these things were not so, we have the words of Jesus. If we have not let Him transform our thinking and behavior, we need to ask ourselves if we are really His sheep.  In His kingdom, a slave is God’s free man, and a free man is God’s slave. The way to life is by first dying, the way to inherit the earth is meekness, the way to deal with enemies is by blessing them, and the way to overcome is to submit. We shall not be as the Gentiles, lording it over others, but we shall be as the One who washed the feet of both the faithful and the betrayer.

But, if we would rather be as “the Gentiles” or “the world”–living by the sword or praising those who do–God will choose our delusion.  It will probably look something like this:

America is the greatest, most moral country on earth, and our soldiers are heroes who died to set us free.

Such sentiment has become foolishness to me now. To me, Memorial day is a day of pride, purposeful blindness to our faults as a people, and utter rebellion against God’s ways.  I understand why the world participates–and every nation has its similar days. Factions of the world revere the destructive and counterproductive works of men because they do not know God. But what about those who say they DO know God?  Do they profess to know Him, but in works deny Him (Titus 1:16)?

I do not mean to disrespect the dead–perhaps someone you loved–by this writing. Often they were brave men and women who sacrificed a great deal for what theythought was right. However, it is my contention that they were as blinded by the god of this world as the jihadist, and those who celebrate their works are equally deceived. Memorial Day is a day of sadness for me–sadness that so many people kill and die for utter vanity because they never understood the power of the cross of Christ.   If there is still any deception remaining in you, dear brother or sister, I pray that you would shake it off and live as a citizen of heaven from this point on.

serve 2 masters

 
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