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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Mighty Warrior, Prince of Peace

"The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies." Isaiah 42:13

"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Those of us familiar with the Quentin Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction, remember the long Bible verse (which was actually a lot of verbiage added to an actual Bible verse) that Samuel L Jackson would "quote" before shooting one of his victims. Although he spoke it as if some kind of prophet of God, later in the film he admits it was something he liked to say because it sounded like such a "cold" thing to say to someone before shooting them into the next life. In saying that, it gives us a few ideas about how to bring the Bible into the world of fiction.

First, a reality check

My son and a few of my acquaintances are in the law enforcement field. If you don't know any police officers, FBI agents, combat-trained soldiers or so on, you may not be aware of some of the mental challenges such a job entails. From the movie screen, Jack Nicholson cries that we "...don't want to know the truth!" and "...can't handle the truth!"

The truth is, it is very hard for a human being in such a job to not find himself dividing the world into "us versus them." They see there are perpetrators, civilians and "the good guys" (themselves). Civilians must be protected and yet sometimes they are a giant pain in the rear. The perpetrator is evil, the enemy and sometimes you cannot tell the perp from the civilian. Only your fellow officers can truly be trusted. This is the kind of mindset that is easy to fall into in these professions. In doing so, officers can easily become arrogant and even begin to see themselves, as the upholders of the law, as being outside of the law themselves.

But then many law enforcement/military professionals are also Christians. How does "Love thy neighbor as thyself" fit into the job? Is a Christian policeman or agent or soldier able to be both a Mighty Warrior and a Prince of Peace, representing both Justice and Mercy?

I asked my son how he viewed his job, now that he was no longer overseas in a soldiering role and had taken on the normal police duties of a stateside MP. He said that what he liked was "...helping people and protecting people." He didn't enjoy having to be physical with someone in a violent situation but it seemed that he could always see his duty as protecting the weak from those who would hurt them. Yet at the end of his tour of duty it seems he will likely leave the service and probably leave the law enforcement field altogether. The dichotomy involved in his line of work may not be who he really is on the inside. One can become weary of facing off against evil and confronting pain and suffering on a regular basis. Police see beaten wives afraid to speak against their assailant. They see neglected children, filth, squalor, stupidity and sin translated into life as a part of their job. The trick is being able to leave the job behind at the end of your shift.

I think that any of us that are fathers can understand some of this. We provide for our families, and we protect them. If there is a threat to one of my own, I turn from suburban computer guy into warrior, ready to fight to the death to defend my family. But then it turns out to be just a raccoon knocking something over in the night, and me and my baseball bat return back to the bedroom and I go back to sawing logs.

Regular comment contributor Creeper asked me some questions in the discussion thread of my Friday post that caused me to write this in response. Part of the idea is concerning the plot aspects of a fictional story in which the hero is both Christian and a fighter against evil. One of the obvious problems is that of becoming the job. How does the hero avoid being the warrior 24 x 7? Or does he avoid it, does he willingly simply BECOME the warrior? Another problem for the hero is the line between good and evil. Does he cross the line, move the line? The Jesuits taught that doing evil to accomplish a better end was acceptable. The Bible says this:

"See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all." I Thessalonians 5:15

Christians are called upon to witness for their faith: Jesus in Mark 15 says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." In fact, the last thing Christ says, just before ascending to heaven and after having been crucified, being raised from the dead, and spending time with his followers on earth was this:

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8

The Mighty Man of Valor

So many great men of God were called upon to be warriors, like Gideon and Joshua and David. David is a great model for the Warrior of Peace, who played and sang songs to sooth the spirit of King Saul and wrote so much of the book of Psalms. Yet he was also the guy who took on the armored giant, Goliath, with a sling and a handful of stones. It was he who led Israel to great victories on the battlefields against their enemies. It was he who lusted for another man's wife, took her while he was away at war, and arranged to have him killed. David had flaws and his sins came back to haunt him with death and destruction within his own family. David wrote this, in Psalms 144:1 -

"Blessed be the LORD my Rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle—"

In the Old Testament, the Mighty Warrior was called upon to defeat the enemies, the heathens, who sacrificed their children to idols made of wood and stone and in other ways defied the God of Israel. If they lived elsewhere, away from God's people, they were ignored. But if they tried to live in the land of the Israelites or battle with them, then it was the Mighty Warrior who would rise up to destroy them. David was described:

"Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him." 1 Samuel 16:18

Gideon: "And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, 'The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!'" Judges 6:12

The Man of Peace

"To Serve and Protect" is emblazoned on the sides of police cruisers. They are sometimes referred to as "peace officers" rather than police. How much more so the law enforcement officer who is also Christian?

Revenge is seen as a common motive in movies and stories. Certainly revenges motivated several of the people mentioned in the Bible. But vengeance as a motive often brings people to a bad end.

Leviticus 24:19-21 "If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him— fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him. And whoever kills an animal shall restore it; but whoever kills a man shall be put to death."

This is from the Law given by God to His people. It is not calling upon people to avenge misdeeds. It is actually an excerpt from the very first penal code. This is explaining that official punishment for misdeeds must be in accord with the wrongdoing. It was a matter of justice and not revenge. God is in favor of laws and a defined code of justice for He Himself wrote one for His people. There is a Bible justifiction for a legal system with defined punishments for misdeeds. Yet God has also said that He is the only one who can avenge wrongs. Therefore the Christian law enforcement agent is in obedience to God in bringing men to judgement but must be careful to avoid dealing out that judgement himself, for in so doing he oversteps, takes the place of God, and becomes a wrong-doer himself.

Hebrews 10:30 - "For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” "

Prince of Peace

I was a criminal in the real sense before I became a Christian. There was a time when I not only did illegal drugs, I sold them and actually belonged to a drug gang, that it, a group of people who produced and distributed "crystal meth" and marijuana in the local area. But I got out of control, a dealer who became a hooked user, to the point that I saw "The Needle and the Damage Done" as Neil Young sang, both in me and my druggie friends. But before I got away from all of that I was associated with people who went beyond what I had done, even people who were willing to and did kill other people. Had things gone a bit different I would have wound up in prison. I left a drug house just minutes before a raid that landed the remaining people in the slammer. I just missed being arrested with a large quantity of drugs twice, both times when the officer searching me and my vehicle missed my hiding place. If he'd had a dog, I would have been a jailbird.

Anyway, the long, long list of my sins? If I would have had to repent them all, I would have been a goner. I sinned way more than I could even remember. But when I was presented the gospel on the day I accepted Christ, it was presented to me thusly:

I am a sinner. Romans 3:23 - "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"

The price for sin is death... Romans 6:23a "For the wages of sin is death," and hell...Revelation 20:14 - "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." and also Revelation 21:8 "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”"

Jesus Christ came to pay the price for my sin. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." and also Romans 5:8 - "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

One only has to receive Jesus gift of loving by calling upon him/asking him to forgive and save. Romans 10:9 - "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." and also Romans 10:13 - "For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”"

I knew, at that time and that day, that I was indeed a sinner and that my sins had condemned me. Yet at the same time I believed that God was waiting, willing to forgive my sins if I would only ask, to transform my life if I was willing to be transformed. I suddenly knew that the God of the Bible was true and I wanted to accept him and know him, not out of fear of any burning hell, but in order to know truth and to be free of my darkest side. I prayed and even as I made the decision, without uttering a word, my soul was filled with the greatest peace! I hadn't understood that I had never known peace until that moment I knew that peace. I'd had a void I didn't perceive until it was filled! Amazing. God has been real to me ever since.

Mighy Warrior of Peace

The fictional Mighty Warrior of Peace is a compelling one. We have the elements in place. But let me digress. For those who are familiar with the series, "The Shield", you see a story built around a cop, Vic Mackey, who leads a band of corrupt and immoral cohorts who fight crime but make sure they get their cut of the action at the same time. They are stereotypical bad cops, capable of murder and every conceivable crime. Over the course of several seasons the series gives us a Vic Mackey who fights against himself to rise above the old bad cop and to become a guy who does it right. But the misdeeds of the past continue to haunt him and intrude into his future. His war with his own flesh and habits continues. The real temptation to bend rules in order to make things happen on the streets, that temptation is there every day. The show is a morality play on steroids, it is Shakespeare to rap music....and my wife and I are both hooked on it! Mackey is a Warrior who does not know the Prince of Peace but is trying to change himself...and get his butt and the butts of his buddies out of a sling as well.

Creeper's Warrior is probably new to Christianity and may not really understand what his role should be. Is he ultimately responsible for the salvation of the bad guys he hunts down? Should he use their own methods against them to bring them to justice? To bring them to a place they will accept God? Does he misunderstand salvation and demand that they confess to every cruel deed they have done? Does he put a gun to their heads and give them a heaven-or-hell choice right here-right now? Conversely, will he let someone get away because he won't cut a corner or cross the line? Does the one who gets away go on to do something much worse? (Think Peter Parker's Uncle being the guy he lets escape). Does he even relinquish association with a law enforcement agency and go out on his own like "The Punisher" or "Batman" but with the twist of seeing himself as the arm of God rather than the judge of other men?

The most difficult thing to do with such a character is to develop him as both Christian and lawman simultaneously. Let him confuse his role of protector with the idea of missionary. Let him agonize over opportunities to bring criminals to God versus to justice. Perhaps make him decide whether he is willing to let a genuinely converted thief escape rather than face his penalty under the law.

Jesus was hung on the cross between two thieves. Luke 23:39-43 - "Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”"

Jesus did not free the thief from the cross and his punishment. He forgave and promised him a place in eternity. The Warrior of Peace would learn to come to that understanding with time. Bring men to justice, but bring them to God.

1 comment:

WarriorsAgainstDrugs said...

It's a blessing to read your blog concerning what the Lord has done with and for you. I have experienced the drug world myself, and the Lord has delivered me from that past life, and has given me an idea for a day of prayer against drugs. I have a blog called Warriors Against Drugs if you would be interested in checking it out. May God continue to strenghen and bless you.