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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Does Peace Come From Ruling Or Serving?

Matthew 20:20-28 tells an all too human story in the Gospels. The mother of two of Jesus' disciples came to him asking for a particular honor for her sons; she wanted her sons to have the seats of honor in Jesus' kingdom. After Jesus answered her, the others became angry. It was then that Jesus identified key factors to spreading both peace and conflict.

Jesus said that we should not "lord it over" others as the Gentiles do but instead, we should become like him. He said that:

"the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

The contrast that Jesus draws is stark. While those who were then counted as outside of God's community of people sought honor by dominating others, the King of Kings came to give the ultimate service for all.

While we could charge people to follow Jesus' words and example here, perhaps we should first employ these verses as a barometer. That is we can tell those who are serving themselves from those who are following Jesus by checking to see if they are ruling over rather than serving others. So is the US serving Iraq or themselves when our oil companies are negotiating for no-bid contracts? And they are doing so because our gov't, having failed to move the Iraqi Parliament to privatize Iraqi oil reserves, influenced the Iraqi Oil Minister to privatize the same reserves so that they can be controlled by foreign companies.

How does this lesson relate to peace? Control and domination bring unnecessary conflict. We know this because we know how we respond to control. And yet, when it comes to our country's foreign policies, this lesson often remains unlearned. This is because since we have idealized, or idolized, our country, we interpret resistance to our nation's control as hating our freedoms, and in a sense, that is correct. People from other countries hate our assumed freedom to rule over them as we are doing in Iraq. Of course, those who insist on worshiping at the alter of American patriotism insist that others need our direction for their own good.

Such patriots show that they are either reading impaired with regards to the Bible or are following what Jesus described was the example of the godless--remember that they sought greatness by becoming tyrants. Of course, tyrant is a strong word to those seeking control; but to those who are being dominated, it is apropos.

Do we really want peace? Then we should insist that our country's foreign policies serve rather than control others. In this, we would be following Jesus. This will not eliminate all of our conflicts but it will decrease the number of our enemies because we will no longer be fighting those who resist our control. And who knows, maybe setting such an example of service would catch on which would make us leaders, by example that is.

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