Autonomy

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7)

AutonomyThere are places in this world that have become so dangerous to that the citizens of those countries are leaving everything behind and taking perilous journeys to escape what they fear. This week witnessed the deaths of immigrants at sea and on land. Refugees are spilling over the borders of free counties. What fear compels them? In most cases, a despotic regime has declared war on them and is seeking to kill them.

According to new figures by the International Organization for Migration, over 330,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea this year to reach Europe. Over 2,500 have died in the attempt. And that is only the Mediterranean.

How can we see the pictures and hear the stories and not be moved? Compassion and mercy call for a response. What do we do? Should we send humanitarian aid? …set up refugee camps?… throw our borders open?… send in the military to kill the bad guys? Is there even a political solution? I don’t know what to do to bring relief to those who have born the brunt of injustice. It is above my pay grade. Most of the political solutions that have been tried in the recent past I haven’t liked. They seem so reactionary and shortsighted. And by my estimate they have left a wake of even more injustice.

Why is man’s inhumanity to man so cruel and intransigent? The cycles of history are replete with examples. It is in our human nature to divide between the righteous and the unrighteous — and the morality of our division is culturally rooted. But if we listen to the various people involved in conflict it gets harder to draw clear lines of righteousness. Nonetheless, obvious expressions of evil can make it clear to all. A despot is a despot. A terrorist is a terrorist. But many of the people caught in the middle are simply trying to stay standing while their ground is shaking.

We tend to focus on the evil “over there.” But in the Word of God the prophet Micah took aim at the people of God for their own unrighteousness. While they deemed themselves good, he pointed out the hypocrisy…

  • Rulers oppress the poor (Mic 3:1-3)
  • Prophets lead the people astray (Mic 3:5)
  • Priests are easily bought (Mic 3:11)
  • There are no righteous people (Mic 7:2)
  • There is no justice in the land (Mic 7:2)
  • Judges accept bribes (Mic 7:3)

The natural bent of man towards evil was on display within their midst. They believed their standing as God’s people exempted them from such charges. But in their own land they were guilty of what was happening in the evil nations around them. Evil was not something “out there,” but “in here.” It was in the heart — yes even among the people of God. It all started with man’s embrace of autonomy in the Garden in Genesis 3. Man wanted to be like god. And so history unfolds in a world where many men would be god. We don’t really want God to be God because we want to be god. And so we look at a world in disarray and make god-like decisions about how to solve them and more often than not we only exacerbate the situation.

I do not know how to solve the world situations and I will leave that to wiser men than me. I will pray for a God of justice to continue to defend those who are caught in the middle through no fault of their own. I will ask for His justice to prevail. But I will also take a look at my own heart and heed Micah’s advice to God’s people…

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8)

I don’t like to ask, but I must inquire of God about ways I contribute to the evil that pervades our world. True righteousness is only found in Jesus. My response to Him will determine whether I am continuing to contribute to the accumulation of evil in the world or whether I am bringing His righteousness to bear. In a world of evil and corruption, we are in desperate need of the humble followers of Jesus who move in the fruit of the Spirit.

About marknicklas

Mark Nicklas is a husband, father, son and follower of Jesus Christ. He is a pastor at Beaverton Foursquare Church and an adjunct professor at Multnomah University, where he earned his doctorate in Cultural Engagement. Like Jacob wrestled with God at Jabbok, this site is a place for talking about the identity of the church with respect to the cultures we live in. You are invited to share the journey.
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1 Response to Autonomy

  1. gdueker says:

    Mark,
    Thanks for the thoughtful engagement of current refugee crisis with the Old Testament prophet Micah. In the context of autonomy and humanity’s use of power for their own purposes, I would like to jump into your moment in Micah and add this passage from Micah 2:1-2,

    Woe to those who devise wickedness
    and work evil on their beds!
    When the morning dawns, they perform it,
    because it is in the power of their hand.
    They covet fields and seize them,
    and houses, and take them away;
    they oppress a man and his house,
    a man and his inheritance.

    It also reminds me of Jeremiah 2:12-13,

    Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
    be shocked, be utterly desolate,
    declares the Lord,
    for my people have committed two evils:
    they have forsaken me,
    the fountain of living waters,
    and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
    broken cisterns that can hold no water.

    Any power and action we take needs to be sourced in the character of God. In showing Spirit-led mercy we can function as peacemakers. We must be broken by the suffering of others…and we must do something. However, I think it is going to cost each of us more than we realize to live into Jesus’ kingdom ethic.

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