Peace and Plowshares

Last week’s lectionary Gospel text reading was Mark 7: 24 – 37.  Jesus denies the Syro-Phoenician woman the healing of her daughter.  Even to the dogs, she reminds Him, is the Gospel meant for.  Her reference to herself as a dog leads one to ascertain that Gentiles may have been called dogs by the Jews.

“Dogs” seems to be a name used still 2000 years later to demean a group whose humanity has been devalued.  The image calls to my mind the statue of dogs in the Kelly Ingram park in Birmingham, AL across from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  Many who were called dogs had dogs unleashed on them in that park.  Oh, the misery we cause when we prioritize the Gospel as being for some and not for others.

Isn’t that what war is about?  One group has deemed the lives and cause of another group of people as less valuable than their own.  It is to deny their God-createdness.  It is to assume that our way is the only valid, right, and intelligent way; while the other is ignorant.  And, the threat of them is so great we’re willing to go to war to protect our claim to being right…perhaps even to protect them for their own ignorance.

When will we ever be open-minded enough to resist the allure of war?

The prophets of the First Testament looked forward to the day when we would resolve our conflicts with wisdom instead of weapons.  Today’s Bible study text from Isaiah is one such prophecy.  Isaiah 2: 4 says “God will judge between the nations and settle disputes of mighty nations.  Then they will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools.  Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war.”  Isaiah sees that one day is possible when we no longer need weapons or military strategy, perhaps only wisdom and compassion.  I would say that Isaiah not only looks forward to that blessed day, but he might also look back to the days of King Solomon and the wisdom with which he ruled.

MLK echoed the words of Isaiah in his speech about the Vietnam War at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA on April 16, 1967.  He said (, “with this faith, we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at Last, Free at Last, thank God, almighty, we’re free at last.’ With this faith we will sing it and we’re getting ready to sing it now. Men will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nations will not rise up against nations; neither shall they study war any more… I don’t now about you, but I ain’t gon’ study war, no more!”

Hopefully, someday soon there won’t be regular meetings in the Situation Room.


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