And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharoah's army, then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people. And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans. Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him; so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison. -Jeremiah 37:11-15
Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying, Thus saith the Lord, He that remaineth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live. Thus saith the Lord, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it. Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt. -Jeremiah 38:1-4
Jeremiah was accused of treason; he was accused of discouraging the soldiers; he was accused of giving in to the enemy. He was guilty of listening to the words of God instead of the myth the Judeans had created for themselves.
This post is tough for me write despite the fact that it deals with issues that have been near and dear to my heart for years and years--as long as I can remember, actually. And those issues that are near and dear to my heart are very foreign to those that surround me. When I was seventeen, I received a piece of mail informing me that I had to register with the Selective Service. In the event that conscription was reinstated, this registration would put me on the list of potential draftees. The consequences of not registering with the Selective Service were widespread. I decided to fudge my Social Security number when I registered. I changed one number. I did it because I've never held a loyalty to the American system. I've always viewed the Pledge of Allegiance to be a great example of brainwashing and, as a Christian, that view has only become solidified. I don't put my hand to my heart when the Pledge is recited and I don't speak the words. I wait patiently until everyone is done and I sit down with everyone else. I did the Pledge by the book in school in my younger days because I didn't know any better. I did even though I knew it was quite silly. I didn't understand why it was silly; I just knew that it was. I fudged my Social Security number because I didn't have the guts to just not register. But at the same time I didn't want to pledge any willingness to kill or die for the American system. I took the middle road and fudged my Social Security number so that, in the event my name were to come up for the draft, my record might cause enough confusion that I would be exempted. It was foolish reasoning, but I was seventeen and I never sought anyone's counsel on the matter. Such a way thinking was not very popular in the midwest. This fudging of the numbers would come back at me over ten years later. I was looking into going back to school a few years ago and and was filling out an application for federal aid. When I clicked on the button to submit the application, I was informed that I had never registered with the Selective Service and therefore I would not be eligible for federal aid. I considered just registering anew right there, but I quickly found that I was too old to register. I had passed the age limit to register. If I wanted federal aid, I would have to try to get my fudged number corrected on my original registration. I went ahead and did that with no problem.
This story is just to show that I've never related as a 'loyal' citizen of America. I never really have. My thought was always that if this is the best of all possible worlds we are in big trouble indeed.
I've heard a lot of Christians say that so many in the world are violent and rush to war because they just don't know Jesus. They want to sow violence in the world because they don't know the one true God. Then I think of all the rhetoric in America that it is a 'Christian duty' to defend this country by means of violence--in fact, 'by any means necessary.' This leads me to believe that under the current paradigm of thought in the Church in America, even if the entire world was Christian, we'd still be fighting wars. Iran may be Methodist, France may be Baptist, Syria may be Pentecostal, etc., but wars will still be fought over worldly concerns.
One idea I've held onto from my anarchist past is an idea regarding borders and nations, and I don't think it's antithetical to a Christ-like worldview. I've never been a nationalist and I've never really understood the appeal of nationalism--especially as a Christian. It's like a game that the carnival barker called the devil has sucked us into and given us sides to play on--but instead of harmless sport, we kill one another. All of this killing is done over worldly concerns, worldly worries. I don't think the idea that opposes borders and nations is antithetical to a Christ-like worldview; I think the idea that promotes borders and nations--and the consequent nationalism--is antithetical to a Christ-like worldview.
Whether or not the entire world is Christian, as long as we hold onto nationalism, wars will still be fought. We'll still kill each other. It's not exactly unprecedented for Christians to kill one another over petty differences. We're not 'all that'. In fact, we're nothing without Christ. So next time we criticize Muslims for dancing in the streets and cheering when three thousand were killed on American soil in 2001, keep in mind how we acted when Osama bin Laden was killed. Osama bin Laden needed Jesus as much as anyone. Instead of offering him Jesus, we offered him a bullet. If what we claim to know about what happens after our physical death is true, we signed bin Laden's certificate of entry into Hell. No Christian should ever do that. Imagine if that's how the Church responded to Saul in the book of Acts? After all, he could easily be defined as a terrorist of his own day. Instead, this seemingly unconvertable Jew was converted and ended up being mighty for Christ.
I always knew my kingdom was not the kingdom of America. I just never knew what kingdom I did belong to. Eventually, I ended up thinking I belonged to no kingdom but my own--a kingdom of one. But I've come to realize that the kingdom I belong to is the Kingdom of God, where Christ is King. I've been called 'un-American' many times in my life and I'm not bothered by it. I'm in good company--Jeremiah was accused of being 'un-Judean.'
In our loyalty to America as a nation and to its borders which surround it, we inevitably label anyone outside of those borders as 'other.' Worldly considerations end up trumping heavenly considerations. We put the temporal on a pedestal above the spiritual. We must not do this. America will fade away, but the Kingdom of God will survive forever.
On a different note, as I've been dealing with this most recent flare-up of gout, many have prayed for God to heal me. And, honestly, it hasn't felt right. There's responsibility on my end. If a smoker is healed of lung cancer and continues to smoke, what does that say about their respect for God's healing? And what does it say about mine if I'm not willing to embark upon a lifestyle that can lend itself to healing? I've felt a bit heretical about this--so many are criticized for not having Kenneth Hagin-style faith when it comes to healing. But there comes a point (especially in America) when we have to realize that our own bad choices lead to a lot of our poor health. Our actions have consequences. No one ever prays for me (or anyone else, to the best of my knowledge) to be healed of obesity. That's because everyone knows it's a lifestyle decision that has led to it. It requires a lifestyle change.
Last night as I was reading the bible, I came across Matthew 4:5-7 and it spoke to me. It confirmed how I've been feeling about the issue of healing. If I do nothing to change my lifestyle but expect God to heal me anyway, it's making a mockery of Christ's death. And it's a test of God. It equates with me jumping off the temple just for kicks, expecting God's angels to catch me every time. It makes me one of the ones laughing at him as he's on the cross. I don't want to do that. Yes, God can heal. But we have responsibility as well.
If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW
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