I’ve been heavy-hearted recently. Heavy hearted for the political unrest occurring in “our” region of the world: Cameroon, Africa. And heavy hearted for the “unrest” among my four second-graders. There are likely grave injustices in Cameroon that have gone unaddressed for years and now the alleged oppressed are lashing out towards the alleged oppressor: the government. Some are expressing concerns peaceably and others are taking this opportunity to burn villages and murder the innocent. Thankfully we do not have any burning or anything of the sort among our children, nor do we have (physical) murder. And yet, there is nonetheless no peace.
As people all over the world deal with the squabbling children and grieve deeply in the face of war, Scripture speaks and answers the question, “Why war?”
James 3:16 says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” I think this verse is a sober call to civil rulers to think long and hard before they redirect tax money into their own bank accounts. I think it should open the eyes of presidents all the way down to beat cops that extortion, favors, and white lies will open Pandora’s box to unmanageable people. Where there is selfish ambition mixed with power, there will be a disorderly country.
In the same way, where members of a society are out to “get theirs,” the society will fall apart. Children fighting over a teddy bear will lead to ripping off arms and legs and a teddy bear that neither of them end up wanting. A child rushing to eat the cookie before his brother gets to it means that he won’t even taste it as he smugly gulps it down. Where rulers, where children, where parents, where citizens are looking out for “number one,” God assures them that there will be disorder and a reign of evil. And yet this warning is not heeded, because is it not believed.
The offended and the offender alike want “the good life” and yet the Bible says that the way to a full life is not through seeking what is good for oneself, but instead it is by speaking the truth, it is by turning from evil, doing good, and seeking peace (1 Peter 3:10-11). I wonder if this counsel was given and heeded in cabinet meetings across the world how revolutionary it would be. I wonder how different the world would be if there were more political leaders that put aside their selfish ambitions and made it their goal to say what is true, reject evil, and spend their lives pursuing good and peace. I understand that it is almost laughable to say that if we spend our lives not seeking our own good, that we will find the good that we always wanted. And that is why God calls us to take this promise by faith.
God also calls the world to seek a better kingdom. I believe there are reasons to go to war. I believe there are occasions where such an evil may hold back even greater evil. And yet, war should never be to replace the Kingdom that can only be found in Heaven, where God is the perfect ruler. Jesus reminded people to not accumulate houses, cars, and jewels on earth because none of it would last. Instead, he called people to send it all ahead to Heaven where there are no more thieves, no more tax collectors, no more lovers of violence (Matt 6:19-20). He also made the promise that those who live for their own benefit, he will humiliate, but those who humble themselves will be the exalted ones in his Kingdom.
How many wars could be avoided with a fresh vision of the streets of gold promised to those who worship Christ as king? How much deeper would contentment under an unjust government run with an understanding that King Jesus will judge the oppressor? Without this vision, we are left to squabble over houses of straw because that is all we think there is. In the words of CS Lewis:
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. – The Weight of Glory, 26
We are too easily pleased when we settle for being rulers of the little kingdoms we set up for ourselves on earth. They are all temporary and will always disappoint. The little girl who cuts in line because she insists on putting herself first while everyone behind her is despising her is missing out on the nail-scared hands who would’ve taken her from the end of the line and made her first for all to see as they smile in admiration. She is far too easily pleased. And those who kill to either get power or maintain it are forgetting that all power belongs to God and his Son is coming back soon to take what has always been rightfully his.
There is a true and lasting justice coming to those who accept him now as their King. There are riches. There is honor. May this vision lead many to put down their weapons.