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The Next Step: What Would We Do to Jesus?

by The Rev. Kaji Douša, United Church of Christ of La Mesa

Kaji Spellman2I spend a lot of time thinking about the Middle East…thousands of years ago. As a faithful reader of the Bible, I study the people it talks about, leaders who ruled when the prophets prophesied and the conflicts that riddled the region. Fast-forward thousands of years, passing through countless other wars in a region that has so rarely seen long-term stability to the land of Syria: a new generation of people must now decide if they have the resources or the strength to stay in their homes or if they should flee to a place less likely to see continued violence.

Even after developments with Russia and Syria have shifted the conversation towards more diplomatic solutions, we, as a nation, continue to wonder what we should do about the unrest in the Middle East, specifically about the Syrian Civil War. And as we consider what’s right, what our Christian obligation might be, it’s almost as if we ask:

• Is God a pacifist?  Does God believe in Just War Theory (which pays attention to just cause, proportionality, possibility of success and last resort as possible justifications for intervention)?  Does God agree with Pope Francis, who recently tweeted “never again war!” on Twitter?

• Or is it more personal?  Does God support individuals in their specific work?  What about parties?  Is God with Barack Obama on foreign policy matters?  Or does God espouse the Tea Party’s new Libertarianism?  Is God Red or Blue or Purple?  And even if we initially scoff at the idea, do we really believe God supports the people on the other side of the political aisle (and I’m assuming nothing about where you sit on these issues)?

The truth is, I’m just not sure what God wants from the United States and its allies in response to the Assad regime. Christians can look to Jesus’ life for more clarity – turning a cheek, refusing violence at his arrest, submitting to the cross – these things give us some hunches. Yet, I still don’t know what God thinks of Just War Theory, or if God is a pacifist.  I don’t know how God blesses President Assad’s life – I don’t know the contours of their relationship – though my faith tells me that they have one, because I believe that God can reach anyone. The questions I asked earlier are questions about which I pray, but do not yet have an answer.

But perhaps we need to ask a different question altogether. I’m with one of my favorite theologians, Miroslav Volf, on this one.  Rather than asking what Jesus would do (with Assad, for example) – an answer I’m not sure that we can truly give with faithful authority – perhaps the question for Christian faith communities is:

In our action, what would we do to Jesus?

Where would Jesus be?

With the Bible as my guide, I believe from the depths of my being that Jesus would be found in the most vulnerable places. And with that in mind, I wonder:

If he were in a refugee camp, would he have food to eat?

If he were in harm’s way, would targeted strikes hit him?

If he needed to evacuate, would he have the resources to leave?

If he had suffered from a chemical attack, would he have access to medical treatment?

Wherever he might be, Jesus would know the prophet Jeremiah’s words to a people, thousands of years ago, facing war and destruction.  And I believe he would paint them an image like that of the Potter, the one in whose hands – no matter what – we are held.

In the hands of a potter so skillful, so powerful, so good, the clay becomes something beautiful, a gorgeous vessel the potter can fill with good things.  That’s an image worth remembering, because:

In the Potter’s hands the most heinous acts don’t win.

In the Potter’s hands that which looks destroyed gets new life.

In the Potter’s hands the grave doesn’t win.

In the Potter’s hands death never gets the last word.

Binaries and politics aside, may our prayers take us, first, to the places Jesus would go. And may we do everything within our power to protect the ones Jesus would care for and stand beside: the most vulnerable.

There is always another way. May we but have the wisdom to see it.

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