During my sabbatical, two experiences occurring within three days of each other reminded me of a text in Philippians, and how challenging it is to walk with discernment in today’s complex world.
This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9–11
For some time, Micki has had a heartfelt longing to greet our returning troops. We finally went up to BWI and joined Operation Welcome Home for an afternoon, preparing bags of snacks and waiting for the plane to arrive with 240 soldiers and sailors.
Unlike the current war in Afghanistan, I have never believed that the second Iraq War was justified. But my political views about the war take nothing from my admiration for the men and women of our armed forces, and the families who must get by without them. They have sacrificed a great deal to fight the evil of terrorism, and I am grateful to them beyond words.
What a thrill to greet each one with loud applause as he or she came through customs, shaking hands, welcoming them home, thanking them for their service and asking God to bless them. They are all heroes, and deserve to be greeted as such on their return.
The following Sunday, I traveled to Washington DC to attend a prayer meeting sponsored by an organization I support, Barnabas Aid. Barnabas Aid exists to support persecuted Christians anywhere in the world. At the prayer meeting were leaders of the churches of Iraq and Syria, in our country to meet with members of Congress.
One of the oldest Christian communities in the world, Iraqi Christians lived in relative stability under Saddam Hussein. While Hussein was a monster in many ways, he had no interest in persecuting Christians. In fact, Hussein’s Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, was a Chaldean Catholic.
Since the war, all that has changed. The country has disintegrated into a civil upheaval of the major factions, none of whom have any interest in respecting native Christians. Christians have been widely threatened, killed and dispossessed. The British leader of the prayer meeting I attended personally saw a young Christian publicly crucified in the center of Basara, while the Coalition military leader he was visiting indicated that they were committed to not intervene. The Christian population has gone from 1.5 million (in 1990) to 400,000 – many now live in Syrian ghettos, as they forfeited all their belongings and savings. Their plight has received very little coverage in our news media, and less comment by our leaders. They are one of saddest examples of collateral damage in the war against terrorism.
So, in the span of several days: welcoming our troops home as heroes, and then asking God’s forgiveness for the way our nation inadvertently opened a door for the persecution of those who bear Christ’s name.
It would be nice if all moral issues were simple. As it is, we need depth of insight to discern what is best.