Daily Reflection
January 16th, 2004
Barbara Dilly
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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It seems like God’s people, and that means us, have a long history of not being able to understand the difference between worldly power and authority and the power and authority of God.   The elders came to Samuel and asked for a king that would lead them in warfare and would fight their battles for them.  Never mind, they said, when God warned them that such a king would demand every earthly good from them in return.  They wanted a king who would secure homeland security for them and would enforce justice.  They should have known that God wanted something much better for them.  Their prophets and priests like Samuel had been trying to tell them that the use of worldly power and force through warfare did not lead to their security.

But this lesson is a difficult one for us to learn.  Over and over again the people of God support military leaders and readily go to battle in the name of God to secure their homelands.  The Old Testament gives us alternative visions, but we can’t seem to hold on to them.  As often as we recite the Lord’s prayer, we ought also to recite Psalm 89:16-17; 18-19.  We need to remind ourselves that the people who proclaim the Holy One of Israel as King are blessed.  To the Lord belongs our shield, and it is through the Lord’s justice that we are exalted.  Sadly, we are like the elders who came to Samuel.  Rather than looking inside of ourselves and at our relationship to God in our search for peace, we look for leaders who will confiscate weapons of mass destruction and apprehend terrorists. 

And if we criticize such a leader, we are accused of being un-American.  Is this something like what Jesus addressed when the scribes said he was blaspheming God for telling the paralytic that his sins were forgiven and that he should rise up and walk?  The issue was about authority.  Jesus had the authority of God to forgive sins.  He also had the power to heal.  But his ministry was not centered in healing the sick, but in forgiving the sins of God’s people.  He used his healing powers to get their attention.

As I reflect on these lessons, I am given guidance in how to evaluate those who criticize George Bush’s use of military force to defend homeland security.  If they criticize the president only because they seek his discretionary power to command our country’s military forces, they are speaking without authority unless they get elected.    But if they speak from the position of the Lord’s justice, they are exalted, which means that they are elevated in status, dignity, power, honor, and the effect of their action is intensified. 

Sadly, as I listen to presidential candidates criticize George Bush’s foreign policy I hear only strategic alternatives, not a proclamation of God’s authority.  Some would say that is as it should be to maintain the separation of church and state, a feature of our democracy that I greatly value.  But I am listening for rhetoric that has the authority of the Lord’s justice without necessarily proclaiming religious values.  What I hear is the rhetoric of candidates addressing people who are asking for a king to fight their battles.  If the Lord is our shield, it is up to us to proclaim God as king in our lives and not look for a military leader to get us out of our difficulties.  I think we need first to proclaim the authority of Jesus who forgives our sins before we look to destroy those who sin against us.  This is not easy for us to do.  It never has been.


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