Buy Peace (The Thing About Syria) 1

I woke up this morning in a frenzy: a student in my ministry was going to portray Jesus, and I wasn’t sure if he would pull the Donkey with the kind of grace we thought Jesus might have done on the original Palm Sunday. The sheer amount of moving parts a pastor worries about on any given Sunday morning can be exhausting. And today was no different, but like a good masochist, I enjoy it!


Later that morning I walked into my boss’s office. We start going over the morning when he tells me about this bombing in Egypt that killed many Coptic Christians. It suddenly occurred to me that no matter how stressed I was, nothing could be as bad as attending Palm Sunday service and never leaving. Everything shifted back into proper perspective.


Perspective is everything sometimes.


For example, many intellectuals praise the ideology of the dead Chairman Mao. He is far more imaginative than I am capable of seeing, hence my lack of praise. I fail to see the profundity in a Mao. He’s the kind of man who was willing to destroy his own people and convince the vast majority that he did it for their sake! Richard Pipes said it this way: “Mao concluded that demolishing institutions was not enough: one had to change man. Changing human beings was, of course, the ultimate objective of Marxism. But Mao decided that it had to be realized without delay, and he committed his entire rule to make it reality [1].”


It is possible for really smart people to be really dumb. Just because one is an expert in one field doesn’t make them experts in foreign policy. Syria is not one of these problems. In fact, Syria makes absolutely no sense. Assad was elected, praised, and had finally driven out the last of ISIS (and Al Q) in Syria; so why would he suddenly commit such a horrible act of terror upon his own people? It is easy to grasp the low-hanging fruit.


For example:


They hate us for our freedom!


Syria is a snake-pit!


ISIS is actively recruiting there!



The Washington Post claims that Trump has finally learned the truth about Assad. But there are others with differing views, such as Ron Paul [2]. The question is, Who benefits the most from these bombings? Syria doesn’t. ISIS doesn’t. Assad surely doesn’t. The one’s who benefit the most from destabilization are the industries surrounding the war effort. This isn’t anything new.


When approaching conflicts such as that in Syria, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, there tend to be two camps of ideology, at least here in America:


  • Those who believe that there is no military (violent/forceful) solution to a conflict, and they tend to believe that a forceful response only serves to escalate situations and make them worse over the long-run. There is validity to this point, and we can easily find historical examples of military intrusion causing more harm than good.
  • There are also those who believe that at least some military force is necessary to maintain what peace and order we presently do have on the planet. There are also examples where momentary peace has been achieved through the use of force.


Obviously, we have to recognize there are likely more than just the two ways of thought presented, but these cover a large swath of our population.  It seems like, whenever something like what happened in Syria takes place, we construct our response by asking the same question of ourselves; “As a Democrat/Republican how do we need to respond.”


As Christians, I think we have to begin asking ourselves the same question, but placing the necessity of our response to be framed by the self-giving love found in the cross of Jesus.  So, with that, how should we as Christians respond?  And secondly, must we endorse or comply with the response of our nation just because we voted a particular way?


Here is an idea: Rather than seeking how we can align ourselves with regimes of power, we could begin to align ourselves with the true king of those powers, Jesus.  We should get behind the effort to buy peace. But buying peace is not buying tanks or bullets. Violence, justified by aspirations of peace, is still violence. One of the best ways to do that is by supporting missionaries who volunteer to minister in the Middle East.


Missionary and justice groups such as Preemptive Love Coalition who along with their co-founder, Jeremy Courtney, are constantly putting their lives on the line to serve, love, feed, and help those in the most war-torn countries on earth.  There are many other groups we could highlight who are doing equally admirable things which deserve our attention, our time, and our money.


With all of the opportunities available to us today to promote peace-making works in our world, why is it that we still devote the lion’s share of our attention to our need to bomb people groups into submission?  Why is it that we still think, after history has proven us wrong time and again, that we can create a culture or world filled with peace by eradicating violent factions using violence as our primary tool?  As well, and counter to military force, why is it that we think we can simply throw more financial assistance into countries with destabilized leadership in the hope that they will steward it for the sake of peace?  These efforts simply do not work long-term.


In Jesus and his way, we will always find an alternative way of hope that isn’t found within the confines of whatever empire or regime is presently in power no matter their political leanings.  Jesus offers, not a middle way, but a different and many times more radical way than we could imagine, and it’s exactly the re-imagining of what could be that Jesus invites us into.


One of the greatest dreamers and visionaries of recent history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said the following to induce a peaceful response from those fighting for civil rights for African-Americans during The Civil Rights Movement:


I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.  [3]


Dr. King wasn’t simply citing his generation’s brand of pacifism or trying to lead people into some misguided journey for non-violence.  I contend that rather than that, He was seeking a better way to gain freedom for his people, the Jesus way.  The way of Jesus calls us in a different direction and tightens the tension between how our culture would have us respond and love.  It’s not difficult to get our various factions of culture to agree that peace is a good thing.  The disagreement lies in the question: “How do we get there?”  The answer to that question is simple, but not easy.  Jesus truly is the answer.  His way, as the Prince of Peace, leads us into re-imagining our world.  So, can we remain hopeful for lasting peace?  Moreover, can we begin to imagine what the “double victory” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of might look like for us today?  What can we endure, and who can we love in order to truly win the day?


Be Uncommon,

Jon and Jeremy



[1] Richard Pipes, Communism, p. 128




[3] Martin Luther King, Jr., Christmas Sermon 1967


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