The other night my wife and I watched War Horse, the recent award winning movie set in the context of the First World War. As you would expect, the movie takes us into the heart of trench warfare, with British soldiers on one side and German soldiers on the other. I could not help but be struck with the image of troops on both sides, hunkered down in their trenches, waiting for the next whistle that would call for them to crawl out of their trench and attack the other side. They race through mortar shells bursting around them and machine gun fire raining down on them. The attacks all fail and they retreat back to their miserable, rat infested trenches wounded and battered, grieving for those that did not make it back. In the no-man's land between the trenches, everything living or life-giving is lost. Only the sounds and smells of death and destruction remain.
It seems that we have claimed the way of trench warfare in our national religious and political dialogue. It seems we have those on the right, hunkered down in their positions with no thought of doing anything else. It seems we have those on the left, hunkered down in their positions with no thought of doing anything else. The result is that at moment here and a moment there, a whistle blows or an issue pops up and one side or the other leads a futile attack on the other. Nothing is accomplished except that news headline flash and otherwise good folks are mowed down in the exchange. It seems that we are more content to lob bombastic bombs filled with hatred rather than to listen to one another. We seem more content to shoot at each other at a distance with words of judgement rather than to draw close enough to each other to listen to one another and to call each other by name. Our current path only leads us toward becoming a church more and more disconnected from the very people whom we hope to reach with the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Our current political path only leads us toward becoming a nation further divided from one another. Neither path is healthy. Neither path seems to be consistent with the teaching of Jesus. It is time for some voices to raise from the center and call us to more - to call us to be better - to call us to more Christlike.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches: If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Let us go and do likewise.
Grace and Peace, Tom Ogburn