Sunday, May 15, 2011

God's Mercy: A Revelation Through a Dream

One aspect of the Christian life with which I struggle much is the understanding of God's mercy. And it's not usually a matter of intellectual understanding. I understand theologically how God's mercy is exemplified in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. And now Christ serves as mediator for, among other things, the forgiveness of repentant sinners, myself being one.

Much of my misunderstanding is practical inability to forgive myself or understand why God should or would forgive me. Yes, I understand that God can forgive anything. And I understand that if I don't forgive myself I put my own judgment above His own. But, what is it exactly to be infinitely forgiving? How can that work? I had an interesting dream the other night that spoke to this. This dream is what inspired me to write the blog entry.

In this dream (highly meaningful despite the silliness of where it took place: a grocery store), I was to be put to death by hanging for something I had done. I felt the guilt in my dream, so I knew my death was justified. However, the executioner did not want to execute me. He had no desire in his kindness to see me die. However, instead of letting me off, he still had me hung. When I was dropped from the platform, I landed harmlessly to the floor stunned that I was not dead. I turned and saw the amount of rope. It was infinitely long. I saw no end to the amount of rope. The executioner gave me my punishment, but I was forgiven and was not hanged again.

When, I woke up, I realized that through one means or other-whether dreams have meaning or God gave me a revelation by considering the dream--God helped me to realize His infinite mercy. It's not that our actions do not have consequences, but that He always forgives us. He will not condemn us even by His own rope. If we are to die by being hanged, it will be by our own. If I had been condemned by my own rope, if I had been my own executioner, I would have perished in my dream, justly executed for my crime whatever it may have been. But, with God's infinite rope, given to us through Christ, we are not condemned, but always forgiven.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo -- Not Merely a Drinking Day and Nor Is It Mexican Independence Day!

A little background on Cinco de Mayo in case you don’t know about the holiday. During the American Civil War, the French army during the reign of Napoleon III invaded Mexico with the intent of subduing it and establishing a part of the French empire in Mexico. And to prevent American expansion as well as because Napoleon III despised the United States, his army was also to help supply the Confederate Army. Near Puebla de Los Angeles (not our Los Angeles) on May 5, 1862, the Mexican army met a French army of two-three times its size. The Americans, due to the Monroe Doctrine, supported Central American interests against European outsiders, but at the time could not come to the aid of the economically-ravaged and heavily in debt Juarez-administration in Mexico. But, despite being poorly armed and sloppy-looking as well as out-numbered the Mexican army under Zaragosa took the day. This helped significantly delay supplying the Confederate Army though it did not keep the French from briefly holding Mexico. However, since the Confederate Army was delayed in being supplied, the Union army was able to build to its greatest strength. After the American Civil War was over, Americans came with troops, weapons, and supplies to help the Mexicans expel the French. The Juarez administration, which had to go into hiding during the French-placed regime under Austrian Archduke Maximillan Ferdinand, now was able to come out of hiding. They expelled the French and executed Ferdinand.

However, May 5, 1862, is not Mexican Independence Day. That is September 16, 1810. Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that symbolizes Mexican courage and identity when faced with a hostile and powerful foreign power. It is a minor holiday in Mexico, but it has gained in significance in America. In the 1960s, according to (the History Channel’s website), Chicano activists raised awareness of the day because of the Mexican people’s stand against foreign invaders. It is, as we know, celebrated much today, particularly as a Mexican-American blended holiday.


The Death of Osama Bin Laden -- An American Christian's Response

When I heard U. S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden, at first my response was surprise. I was happy that he was finally gone. But, when I reflected upon it soon after, I realized there is something wrong with celebrating a man’s death. Christ called us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. I do not think Christ would be happy with us leaving all kinds of celebratory and irreverent remarks on Facebook, Twitter, etc or chanting in celebration about the death of someone. What bin Laden had done in his life, leading others to terrorize people and kill them based on a twisted moral and religious premise, is a terrible thing. No one will dispute that. I would never dispute that. But, Jesus died for him as well.

Rather than celebrate his death, we should mourn that his death was required. He has led many astray with his philosophies and influence. Bin Laden had a life that should be lamented, not a death that should be rejoiced. I am saddened to hear some people talk with joy about his likely condemnation in Hell. God would never take joy in such a thing and nor should we. And we do not know why bin Laden had such hate in his heart where love and joy should have been. I will not say it is equal on scale, rather in content, but who has not harbored hatred or bitterness towards others? There are many around us who would rather trample our neighbor to get to the top rather than help others. Think about the terrorism Americans in the past and in the present have enacted upon other nations before we celebrate our judgment cast. Ask Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinos how it has felt that they are oppressed in many ways by a white culture. Look to how we’ve treated others and how we took land and life from others for the sake of our own greed and self-entitlement. Ask the Japanese-Americans how it felt to have their well-being taken away because they were of Japanese descent and placed in internment camps. And do not forget that some of our country’s founders terrorized fellow colonists—pillaging, torturing, killing, tarring, destroying property all because some remained loyal to the King of England rather than put on the cap of revolution.

We should not rejoice in bin Laden’s death. For one thing, it is against the teachings of Christ to rejoice in our enemies’ deaths. And for a second thing, how are we better than the hatred he has perpetuated when we celebrate? How are we better than those who have celebrated the death of Americans? (see below for similar thoughts in WSJ blog article from Abdullah Antepi, Muslim chaplain at Duke University). Rather we should mourn that there is hatred still in the world. That he was a perpetuator of it. We need to mourn the fact that there is “bin Ladenism” in the world and seek its demise (see article in WSJ blog for comments by Rabbi David Wolpe). We should seek God’s love for the world and through love, there can be peace. Because where there is love, hatred cannot exist. And right now, people in this country, and those Christian in this country, hate our enemy through this celebration of his demise. And others that see this will have the mutual feeling whether for or against. And the hate goes on. Let’s stop it by heaping the “burning ashes” of love on our enemies’ heads.