Friday, September 28, 2012

Peace on Earth

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

Jesus this song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won't rhyme
So what's it worth?
This peace on Earth

Bono has always had an interesting relationship with religion. He talks about it quite a bit in his songs. He shows a concern for the poor. The picture shows him meeting with John Paul II about third world debt relief and sun glasses. Just listen to this song I was struck by how well he captures the two main objections to believing in God.  The first is the problem of evil. How can we proclaim peace on earth when war remain a reality?

Part of the answer is understanding what Jesus really said. Look at John 16:33
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Sometimes when Christians evangelize they miss the bit about having trouble in this world. So someone who only tunes in once in a while, maybe at Christmas, can get the idea that Christians just look the other way when suffering happens. We do and we don't. We don't deny the reality but we also look at a deeper reality. The trouble is real but the fact that Jesus has overcome the world is real too. Jesus' victory is spiritual and can only be seen with the eyes of faith. We don't claim that death and pain and evil are not part of our real world. We experience those as much as anyone.

So what is it worth? This victory that we can only see with the eyes of faith? The full, visible victory will come. We know it because we trust God's word. We have seen some things. Lives transformed. Poor people fed. Wars ended. It is not purely spiritual. You just cannot prove the hand of God is involved. We see it but a faithless person will not.

Then  there is the other issue. It cuts deeper in some ways. In the first two lines of the song, who is the drowning man? You might say it is the ones whose sons have died in war. But in some way I think Bono is thinking of himself as the drowning man. He is trying to believe. He just needs a little help. If God is real then why doesn't he get that help? Why is believing in God so hard? Why does it remain hard even when people seem to be making a sincere effort? We are talking about someone's eternal soul. Can't God do something to push them into faith? He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. Why doesn't He do that with my loved one or with a guy like Bono who seems open to it?

It comes down to the nature of love. Love can't be easy. It has to be a choice. It has to deal with good times and bad, with sickness and health, etc. It even has to deal with times that your beloved is doing things that you don't really understand. When you go through those times your love either gets stronger or it proves to be an illusion. You might think getting some sort of miracle or vision when you feel you need it would be a great blessing. A greater blessing can be to not get it and and finding out you don't need it.

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