New York Daily News: “The priests braved bullets and walked into no-man’s land between pro-European Union integration protesters and President Viktor Yanukovych’s riot police. ‘I’m here to placate the violence,’ an Orthodox priest said.”
Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. (Matthew 20:22-24)
Almost 5 years ago, I was in Barnes & Noble, looking through the history and current events section, when I saw a book that was written by an ex-soldier who deserted the army and fled to Canada. The summary on the inside cover told how this man had enlisted in the military as a way to make a living and that he thought he would not be deployed unless World War III broke out. When George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, he was deployed there and eventually deserted. As a history teacher, it was unfathomable to me that anyone actually thought this way. By a conservative count, America has spent more than 1/4 of its history at war and averaged at least one major war every generation. And this doesn’t even count the various other military conflicts (Indian Wars, the invasion of Grenada, U.N. police actions in Kosovo and Somalia, etc.) in between those bigger wars. The idea that someone would enlist in the military as a way to get a free education, a good salary and benefits package, and a comfortable career, yet not expect to see combat at some point is just stupid. Someone wasn’t paying attention in history class. This guy wanted all the benefit of being part of the U.S. military without any of the risk. He enlisted without considering the cost.
I remembered that book as I read this passage in Matthew because really that’s exactly what’s happening here with James and John. In the preceding verses, they had their mother ask Jesus to give them a place of honor in his kingdom. Jesus, like an ethical army recruiter, tried to warn them of what they were asking. “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” is a loaded question that went back to what he had taught the disciples a few verses earlier: Continue reading Consider the Cost
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7)
In his pamphlet Common Sense, published in the midst of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote that “government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.” I’m sure we can all think of examples that prove this to be true. We read of politicians using public buildings and funds to carry on extramarital affairs. We see local police departments using their authority to raise revenue rather than to keep the public safe. Our representatives pass laws that benefit powerful special interest groups but endanger freedom and fly in the face of biblical ideals. Our government gave $1.4 billion of aid last year to countries that own U.S. debt (basically we give free money to countries that lend it right back to us for interest). Continue reading Why We Submit to Government