Friday, September 24, 2010

Jesus Doesn't Solve Everything

When I got back on campus this fall, I was catching up with some of my former floor-mates. One of them had spent some time in a country that was full of ethnic/religious conflict. I asked him if he thought there was solution to the problem. His response was. "I don't know, they just need Jesus, you know." I was taken back by the naivety of his comment, but surprised myself in thinking that his statement is not true. Having Jesus does not solve ethnic or religious conflict.

At the time this thought hadn't grown. It wasn't until yesterday in a discussion regarding Islamic tensions in the UK that my thought formed. One of the students in the class discussion argued that if people became Christians, many of the tensions in the UK would be lessened. I then began to realize that I believe this is contrary to the teaching of Jesus.

Some of what Jesus Said
Jesus never states that if you follow him, everything will be okay here on earth. Nor does he say that he has come to solve political and religious turmoil. Instead, he goes to even say the opposite. Matthew 10:34, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Jesus was not intending that we bring a sword and cause conflict. He calls us to be peacemakers, but we should not be looking to Christ to solve all our problems.

We are to solve our problems. (To clarify, I don't mean that we need to save ourselves. This is the work of Christ and His Spirit in our lives.) Why else did the Christ leave us with the command, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

Health and Wealth Gospel Critique
Another concern I have with saying that having Jesus will solve problems in society is that it is a version of the "health and wealth gospel." The argument goes, if you believe in Jesus Christ as your savior then things will go well. You will be healthy and wealthy. When something goes wrong it's because you've sinned and need to repent. This same argument is being applied when people say that "they just need Jesus to resolve this conflict." No, that is not true.

Jesus did not say that if you follow him everything will go well. Look at what he tells Peter in John 21. Jesus tells Peter that he is going to go where he doesn't want to go. Jesus is predicting the kind of death Peter will suffer.

Critique from History
Lastly, this argument is historically problematic. There have been many Christians, "Bible believing Christians" who have helped stir up conflict or started conflict. (Look at the Great Awakening and trace the history of all the different protestant denominations.) In some cases, the conflict has been between Christians. (Ireland, 30 years war, the Crusades just to name a few.) It's clear from history that having Jesus in your heart does not mean political problems or solved.

I have found myself attempting to sweep aside the "dark-side" of Christian history. I want my history to be a good history, full of exciting successes and great examples of how to be a good Christian. Sadly, this is not true. Christianity has a tough and rough history. the visible church has committed genocide (both Protest and Roman Catholic. I don't know about the Orthodox church.), been racist and has not expressed the love of Jesus. And this is a part of my history as a Christian.

This is not to say that being a Christian doesn't help resolve conflict. One can point out many examples of individuals and groups who have protested genocide and actively reached out to oppressed people. (Civil Rights movement was started by Christians and Martin Luther King jr. was a pastor.) It's vital to remember both the good and bad in our history.

Lastly, being a Christian provides a point of reference which people can agree upon, but it's not the whole answer to resolving political, ethnic or religious conflicts. For instance, the teachings of Jesus Christ have been helpful (I would argue vital.) in the process of reconciliation in Rwanda. Certainly being a Christian can help, but simply saying "all they need is Jesus" is not sufficient and contrary to what Jesus commanded us. Christ looks to us as servants of his kingdom to resolve conflicts. We can't just say, let Jesus do it because he empowered us to do His work.

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