In light of the “war on terror,” is God on our side? Let me share a story…
When Greg Mortenson went to Pakistan to climb K2, he never expected that his crushing failure to summit one mountain (he had to quit 600 meters before the top to rescue a co-climber) would result in the successful conquering of an even greater mountain. On his several-day trek down to civilization, starving, cold, and disoriented, he took a wrong turn and ended up in a remote village where he fell in love with the simple, destitute people. They welcomed him into their village warmly, and he even ended up staying with the chief of the village for a few weeks and picking up enough of the native language to begin communication.
As you might expect, lack of education and illness were two debilitating problems of such a self-contained village, completely cut off from the outside world. As a nurse, Greg was able to treat some of the sick villagers but what could he do about the other great need? Not one of the children (or adults) of the village had any sort of education.
You can read more about this riveting story in the inspiring, well-written book, Three Cups of Tea, but what ended up happening is that this mountain climber with no resources or experience, for the sake of love, ended up changing Pakistan (and later Afghanistan) forever by building and setting up (to date) 145 schools that educate over 64,000 students, especially girls, who are the forgotten of society in the Muslim East.
A few years into the school building process came 9/11. At this point, Greg began receiving hate mail for “helping Muslim children.” A lot of this hate mail came from “Christians,” who told him God would punish him for siding with such an “evil enemy.” Greg saw it all differently. He saw that the war on terror could not be won with guns and bombs, but with education and goodwill. Greg says, “In times of war, you often hear leaders—Christian, Jewish, and Muslim—saying, ‘God is on our side.’ But that isn’t true. In war, God is on the side of refugees, widows, and orphans.”
What a powerful statement. I have reflected a lot recently about killing in the name of “ridding the world of evil.” Americans are killing to rid the world of Muslim extremists. Muslims are killing to rid the world of infidels. Hindus are killing to rid the world of Christians and Muslims. Under the influence of Martin Luther’s book, Of Jews and Their Lies, Hitler massacred to rid the world of Jesus-killers. Christians historically have killed to rid the world of non-conformists.
As I speak to individuals, including some in our military, they believe the Old Testament (OT) killing is a “license” to “cleanse” the world of evil. But I always wonder…what is evil? To every group, those outside their group and beliefs are the evil ones. Who is right? And do the OT killings affirm the use of violence today?
There is no doubt that Jesus promoted the takeover of the Kingdom in this age by peaceful measures, using the “sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17),” the Word of God to promote justice, not the bloody sword of man. And an understanding of the symbolic spiritual message of the OT killings will help us understand why the heavy-handed judgments.
The OT was meant to fully encapsulate a spiritual picture through the natural world. The mass killings of cities and tribes in the OT carried a spiritual correlation for all future ages. For instance, Egypt represented slavery to sin and death and was the enemy Jesus came to deliver us from (via the Savior type Moses).
Babylon represented idolatry and unfaithfulness. And Sodom and Gomorrah represented pride, laziness, and gluttony while ignoring the needs of the poor (Ez. 16:49). I believe every city or tribe that was killed represented something in us, “spiritual enemies,” that need to be slain from our old nature before we will be fit as members and sons of the Kingdom of God. This is the meaning of Romans 8:12–14:
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
Along with the spiritual symbols of these cities, the types of judgments against the OT people are also fascinating. Consider what I believe are the spiritual counterpart of OT judgments:
Stoning: The act of killing the body with stones I believe represents the use of the Stone (Jesus) to demolish our old natures (flesh). “[Jesus said] And he who falls on this stone (Jesus) will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (Matt. 21:44). The picture here is that of falling on “The Stone” in repentance.
Fire: The Greek word for fire, “pur,” is where we get all forms of our word purify in English. Throughout Scriptures, fire is depicted as a purifying, refining agent.
Brimstone: Theion, the Greek word for brimstone is defined, “divine incense, because burning brimstone was regarded as having power to purify, and to ward off disease.” Notice that brimstone (theion) shares the same root for God (Theos).
Torment: The Greek word for torment is basanizo. According to Strong’s (#928), the primary meaning of basanizo is “to test (metals) by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal.”
As you can see, these words take on a new meaning when you know the roots. And when you understand the OT judgments were only a physical picture of spiritual refining and purifying of mankind’s old natures, it brings new light.
These days I believe that killing in the name of God, or Allah, or any other effort to cleanse the world of evil, is really just promoting evil. I believe Greg Mortenson has it right. The way to scale the mountain of God and truly change the world is by showing love and putting our efforts (and resources) into education, health, and meeting the needs of the poor. In this way we can change the world through love and reveal the true character of God to all His children.
Be sure to visit Greg’s site, Three Cups of Tea and learn more about his work in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Below, Greg is pictured with some of the children in Pakistan.