Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
- Revelation 5:11-12
As the viciousness and brutality of the Hamas attack on Israel grew with each article, each news report, each video, all I could think was, Lord, are there no limits to how horrible human beings can be? The answer to that question is apparently no. What kind of person is capable of murdering and decapitating babies and children? Who thinks desecrating the bodies of raped mutilated dead women is… I can’t think of a word that fits. Normal? Empowering? I can’t even fathom such an act, as craven as it is inhumane. Distracting the warriors of Israel with rockets, Hamas snuck in and killed women and children – babies – whole families asleep in their beds.
I readily admit that I am not impartial here. There is no moral equivalence between self-defense and terrorism. There is a vast and important difference between celebrating returning soldiers who fought valiantly and celebrating the destruction and carnage of human beings. Never have we seen Israelis dancing and screaming in victory over the mutilated bodies of women and children as we saw masked Hamas fighters doing, as well as Palestinian and Islamic people in spots around the country as they gather in the streets and celebrate the macabre images of the attack. Oddly, in solidarity with the Palestinians, BLM is hosting rallies in support of Hamas, this in spite of the phones waving photos of the Nazi swastika over bodies of dead Jews. In what naïve delusion will the Palestinians support the American BLM members? What solidarity is reciprocated?
Why are young people in anti-Israel groups on college and university campuses planning a “Day of Resistance” in support of Palestinian terrorists, even as Hamas calls for Muslims around the world to participate in a “Day of Rage”? I’m not talking about the political and geographical debate about who owns the land, but rather, how are our young people supporting people capable of indiscriminate acts of gruesome, animalistic violence against the weak and defenseless? Do our youth believe terrorists care what rallies they hold? Do college students so lack in moral conscience that they celebrate the slaughter of children and old women? Are they so lacking in education that they believe the Hamas and Hezbollah – Iran – would not happily murder them as well?
Just two-to-three weeks ago, I listened to an interview with Sam Brownback on religious tolerance. A former congressman from Kansas, later governor, then “ambassador at large for international religious freedom” under Trump, the interview was sadly timely and revealing… Brownback spoked eloquently of the need for religious freedoms in our world, for the establishment of no religion, but the respect for the beliefs and practices of all. An image of leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths standing together at Abraham’s tomb was his ambitious dream of tolerance between the offspring of Abraham. Brownback talked of the need for more than political discussions with Islam and fiscal assistance to faltering Islamic nations like Palestine. He called for theological discussions between the faiths, for leading Islamic theologians to step up and address the issues that separate the faiths and are the source of division and intolerance. Why, if none have come forward in the twenty-two years since 9/11, would he think an Islamic leader will materialize now?
Brownback’s perspective is not unlike the view of many American Christians today. If we could just talk to one another, we would learn to be respectful and tolerant. That is not a Christian view, but it is widely attributed to Jesus. No limit exists to the Lord’s grace, but He was very clear about the meaning of good and of evil, of truth and of lies. Yet, like Brownback, so many of us think if we could all be reasonable, as the modern enlightened people are, then we should be able to accept differences and tolerate different views. Is Brownback proposing the same reasonable tolerance that Hillary Clinton expressed with the recommendation of reprogramming the “cult” of Trump supporters? Reason and tolerance are an illusion, even (especially?) among those who claim the intellectual and moral high ground of reason and tolerance. Brownback’s well-intentioned enthusiasm is both a Quixotic campaign for world peace through religious tolerance and a dangerously naïve confusion of visions. For the clarity with which it reveals the convoluted amalgam of modernity and Christian belief, the interview with Brownback merits its own discussion another day.
Christian, this is one tragedy among many in human history but a teaching moment for us as well. When we watch the fruit of evil – lies, depravity, hatred, murderous wars, the vast array of anti-Christ expressions and personae – we are seeing the world the Son came to save. Spread before us is the panoply of need for salvation, and we are the people of the Savior. We follow the God Who became Man – for us and for our salvation, for the salvation of the world, to redeem and restore the whole of creation until imbued with the eternal glory of God. The Son of God did not come to conquer but to save. The evidence of today suggests darker times are ahead, but these are battles of the evil one who would destroy all that is good. However, the Son of God overcame the world by becoming human in the Son of Mary and defeating sin, then destroying death with Resurrection, and ascending with mortal flesh into immortality. Let us remember that Christ has already won the war.
Even now, as indications that the war between Palestine and Israel is spreading to Lebanon and Syria, and as the nations of Ukraine and Russia continue embattled and uncompromising, myriads and thousands of voices resound before the throne of the Christ. He is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, and might because He is the Lamb sacrificed for the life of the world, not because He used power, wealth, wisdom, and might to conquer and to defeat. Christ is worthy of honor, glory, and blessing because He gave Himself to save and redeem not to consume and destroy. He overcame death with life, sin with virtue, hatred with truth, apathy with love, despair with hope, mourning with joy.
Jesus Christ is uniquely God – unlike any other worshipped anywhere – because He is the Word that brought creation into existence, because He is the God who saved the world by entering into it as a Baby then laying down His life for it as a Man. He alone is the life that is the light of all people. That is Who we follow, Who we worship. We are His, and because we are, we are a people of hope for the future in spite of the horrors of today. Our trust is not in the wisdom and power of leaders or ideologies or nations but in the One Whose glory was attained through the Cross and Whose triumph was gained by love.
As He was and still is, so also should we be. In the face of unspeakable cruelty, we have within us the hope of the world. The darkness will not prevail as long as we are bearers of light. Lies cannot breed hatred if we speak the truth and live the love of Christ for others. Let me be clear: there is no compromise between good and evil, but love demands we be vessels of hope to those caught in webs of despair and violence wherever they are in the world – or next door. Unceasingly, relentlessly, let us stand firm in the life and light of the God Whose victory is for the blessing of everyone else. If we have received this from Him, then let us also now give freely as He did. For if, when the darkness comes near, you and I are not bearers of the light of Christ, then who is?
Even now – even now – Christ reigns, and His Spirit moves in His people across the world. This week, let that be you. You be the bearer of the Spirit of life in this moment, and you speak the truth of God’s salvation with the humility and compassion of the Lamb Who was slain and is now enthroned. Pray that I have the courage to do the same.
We follow the “uniquely God” Lamb, the sacrifice for the salvation of the world. Whatever comes, the victory belongs to Him already.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau