War is Over (If you want it)

Merry Christmas y’all!  Hoping everyone has a day and season filled with joy and peace.

As we enjoy our celebration, here’s something to think about.

This time of year Isaiah 9:6-7 gets quoted a lot:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

It’s a beautiful passage and it is fitting that we remember it at Christmas.  But why do we always begin the quote at verse 6?  The first word of that verse is “for.”  In Hebrew the word is ki, which can also be translated “because” or “when.”  Verses 6 and 7 are meant to explain that which precedes them.  So how does this passage begin?

Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9 is not merely a prophecy of the birth of the Messiah.  It is a prophecy of the end of war.

Cherie is part of a women’s interfaith fellowship group.  They sometimes have speakers of varying faith traditions come and talk with them.  Once a Christian pastor who was speaking to them asked one of the Jewish women in the group (a leader in the local Temple) why they don’t believe Jesus was the messiah.  She quickly answered that Scripture says that when Messiah comes war will end.  Since war hasn’t ended, then Messiah hasn’t come.

When Cherie told me about that, it struck me as a stinging indictment of Christianity.

Certainly the fault doesn’t lie with Jesus, who taught nonviolence and love for enemies.  For the first three centuries of the faith Christians were pacifists.  Any person who joined the military was expelled from the church and if soldiers became Christians they had to vow to disobey any order to kill.  Christianity was growing fast, and it was deemed incompatible with war.

That all changed after Constantine, of course, and these days plenty of Christians believe that war and Christianity are compatible.  In fact, plenty of Christians are just as bellicose as any unbeliever.  And, of course, warriors’ boots are still used in battle and warriors’ garments are still soaked in blood–despite the birth of the Prince of Peace.

The prophet Isaiah also announced that the Messiah will “teach us his ways so we may walk in his path.”  He will settle disputes for many people and

They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

I know most believers have not lost faith in this promise.  Most, however, will probably say that this will happen the next time Jesus comes.  Next time he won’t just ask us to follow him and do as he says, instead he’ll force us to follow him and he’ll compel us to do as he says.

Maybe so.  But why wait?  Why not get on with it now?

War is over, if we want it.

Love Wins

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