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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS, PART 2

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Assassin’s Creed. Underworld: Blood Wars. Live By Night. Star Wars: Rogue One.

These are some of the current movies playing that have a significant amount of violence in them. Mass killing and destruction, blood and gore, torture and cruelty.

With each passing year, the movies we watch have gotten increasingly more violent, especially with the refinement of computer-generated special effects. Americans consume cinematic violence like a drug we can’t get enough of – as Roman citizens did at the gladiatorial games in 2nd Century Rome.

With each desensitizing dose, we need to up the next dose to get the same thrill.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus made this observation about the role he saw violence playing in society: “It is the structuring principle of reality.”

Indeed, for many it is.

Mankind believes numerous lies, which motivate our violence. At the core of violence is a fear of death that drives the belief that through violence we can get what we don’t have – we can satisfy our desires.

James, the brother of Jesus, put it this way: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill? You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:1-2).

Scripture traces this pattern of desire-induced violence back to the narrative of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. Abel received God’s favor for his animal offering, but Cain, his brother, didn’t receive God’s favor for his harvest offering. Cain wanted what his brother Abel had. And when he didn’t get it, in his jealous anger he murdered his brother.

“The LORD said, ‘What have you done? Listen, you brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.’ ” (Genesis 4:10). This is the first recorded act of violence in the Bible, motivated by Cain’s twisted desire to eliminate the threat to his satisfaction.

In reality, the Triune God of Love, the Giver of life, gives us what we need and He satisfies our desires. He is our highest Good.

God gave Adam and Eve life and all they needed that satisfied their desires. Everything was “very good.” Made in the image of God, they lived in the Sabbath rest of God’s good presence. They were whole and complete, lacking nothing.

This is what the biblical word shalom, or peace, means. Not just the absence of conflict or violence, but wholeness, health, and harmony.

The loss of peace always begins with the lie whispered in our ears that God is NOT completely good.

Once we’ve accepted this deceiving bait, our minds are darkened with fear and shame to believe we must take control as judge to determine how to satisfy our desires. This is the nature of sin.

It’s interesting that the first usage of the word “sin” is in the story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:7). Here is where the seed of self-centered desires are expressed in their ripest fruit – violence and death.

Violence and death continue to escalate until Genesis 6 when the world is described as perpetually wicked and violent. So God sends –  perhaps “allows” (?) – a violent flood to kill everyone except a man named Noah and his family, so they could start over again after the flood.

But did the violent death of violent people through a flood stop the violence on the earth? NO!

More importantly, however, is the fundamental question: Is God a violent God?

Is God really a good God who is for us? Or should we fear that God has a violent streak and might not be completely for our good?

These questions raise a hornet’s nest of further questions about how to read certain Old Testament portrayals of God as a “Warrior King” who appears to violently destroy His enemies. (These must wait for another day).

The Good News of Jesus reveals that God is NOT a violent god. He is pure Goodness and He is a holy, just Love.

We get a glimpse of God’s true nature in Genesis 9:9. After the flood God makes a covenant-promise with Noah to never destroy the earth with a flood again. The sign God gave for this covenant is the rainbow.

A rainbow literally refers to a “bow” – as in a bow and arrow weapon – that appears with its many colors in the sky after a rainstorm.

The answers to all our questions hinge on the answer to this question: Which way is the bow pointing if it had an arrow lodged in it to shoot with violence?  

The arrow of violence is pointed UP not down!

In other words, God’s heart and will is NOT to shoot the arrow of violence down at mankind, into our lives, or at creation. God’s heart and will is to allow the arrow of mankind’s violence to be shot up at Him, into His heart, to absorb our violence.

Look at Jesus. Scourged. Nailed. Bleeding. Dying on a Roman cross of execution. 

Here is the non-violent, enemy-embracing, sacrificial love of God.  Here the rainbow is fulfilled.

Jesus allowed us to do our worst violence to Him so He could give His best for us. The goodness of God’s self-giving, sacrificial love overcame the evil of violence and death with His death and resurrection.

Look “to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”  (Hebrew 12:24)

Abel’s blood cries out and says “vengeance!” Jesus’s blood cries out and says “Peace!”

(Next week we continue with part 3 of “Blessed are the peacemakers.”)

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Meet Pastor Chris

  • Hi! My name is Chris Boehnke (a good German name pronounced “Bane-key”). Tracy, my wife, and I have been married for 21 years and God has blessed us with four beautiful children: Joshua (18), Lauren (16), Nathaniel (13), and Mikayla (9). I treasure my wife and family among the greatest gifts God has given me in life. I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska – the heartland of the Midwest – by two loving parents, Don and Linda. I grew up attending a conservative but vibrant Lutheran congregation, while also experiencing excursions into other evangelical and charismatic church environments. This exposed me to a breadth of Christian practice and teaching that has incited me over the years to ask a ton of questions and to seek deeper understanding regarding what “the church” is and what it’s central message, “the Gospel,” is all about. While my interests were in art…

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