Would Jesus Applaud or Weep?
TOO OFTEN we reduce complex issues to "what would Jesus do" and then try to speak for Jesus. We, like people in Jesus' day, differ on what Jesus would or should do. Some thought he violated the Sabbath when he healed the sick while others were convinced the Messiah was doing God's will. Most of the time it's enough just to figure out what we would or should do in light of what we know about Jesus.
Some events and situations provoked Jesus to weep. One of the most haunting portraits of Jesus is his weeping while overlooking the city of Jerusalem. He was brokenhearted. The people had collectively chosen to ignore and reject his vision of God's kingdom on earth.
I must confess that the scene of
Congress gathering to hear the recent
State of the Union Address haunts me.
The president proposed a $48 billion
increase in the military budget to a
total of $379 billion. And Congress
applauded! The $48 billion increase
in itself is larger than the military
budget of any other country in the
I do not know what our defense
budget ought to be. But more than $1
billion a day ought to be enough to
elicit our tears rather than cheers.
I cannot say whether Jesus would have applauded or wept that night in the Congress. I know I wept. I grieved and hurt. If the case can be made that we need $379 billion for defense, I would hope that it be made with humility and acknowledgement of how far the human family has drifted from God's dream for the world. What kind of world might we shape if we gave a billion dollars a day to the poverty-stricken who barely subsist without adequate food, water, housing or health care.
Something is wrong. Every ninth
child in this country lives in poverty.
Our schools and inner cities desperately
need help. I do not write from a
critical heart but from a broken heart.
I don't know the answer to all this, but I would be too ashamed and embarrassed to applaud our defense budget. I believe it would have been much more in the spirit of Jesus for Congress to have gotten on their knees and wept for what has become of the incomprehensively wonderful earth God has entrusted to us. If in humility we conclude that more military might and weapons are the best response to make to terrorism, I would want us to lament that conclusion and ask God to have mercy on our souls. God forbid that we who follow Jesus become arrogant and confident in our military might. Jesus warns us that in society's frantic attempt to save itself, it will lose its soul.
I remember some former parishioners
whose drug-addicted son
became violent. As a last resort they
locked him out of their home and
called the police. I could not offer
them a better alternative. We were
never sure it was the best response
but it seemed a necessary one. However,
neither the parents nor I rejoiced
in this harsh measure. And the parents
continued pouring energy into
exploring possibilities for transformation
and reconciliation. We humbly
wept over the brokenness plaguing us all.
It seems to me that the least that is
expected of those who follow Jesus is
humility. This saves us from the sin of
pride and arrogance or mere nationalism.
It keeps us searching, questioning, and
praying. It calls us to examine the priorities
of our personal lives and those of our
country. When do we withhold mercy?
When do we extend justice? When do
we promote policies that widen the gap
between the rich and the poor? How committed
are we to reconciliation?
For the life of me, I cannot see Jesus
applauding the announcement of an additional
$48 billion dollars for defense.
Prayer: O God, your heart
must be broken by terrorism. And you
must weep that we only know how to
respond to it with more weapons and
punishment. I confess I trust too much
in our military solutions. I implore you,
O God, to give me and all who follow
Jesus Christ the courage and creativity
to be your light and leaven within society.
Help us to reflect more and more the
disposition of Jesus and less and less of
our own. I pray this for the sake of the
whole world for whom you gave your
son Jesus. Amen.
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