Monday, January 12, 2009

Why winning and losing can never lead to peace

News headlines this morning continue to concentrate on and around the ongoing events in Gaza. Destruction, reprisals, retaliations, preemptive actions, terrorism, slaughter; the Middle East in startling microcosm.

Saturday I read an interesting cover headline: "Why Israel Can't Win". It was my TIME magazine; I've subscribed for over 25 years. I'm not going to critique the article here, nor summarize the contents. In fact, I apologize if I say anything to suggest feelings about the content of the cover story, either pro or con; I'm simply using the statement "Why Israel Can't Win" - emblazoned on the cover of one of America's most widely circulated news weeklies - as a jumping off point for discussion.

You see I believe that this whole "win/lose" mentality, the playbook that has dominated human life for the entire spectrum of history, is almost without exception misguided, counterproductive, anti-redemptive, and - at its roots - contrary to the essential purposes of God and God's intentions in and through creation.

OK, so I said a mouthful. It sounds, at first glance, as if I am suggesting that pretty-much the entire engine that runs our culture, the economy, international policy, the way we dish-out rewards and prizes, much in the way of human interactions and the way relationships work, and even a lot of what is labeled religion - all this and more - has its foundation in an orientation to life ("win/lose") that is fundamentally wrong....

Well, in a word, "YES"!
  • My point is that, so long as the Middle East conflict is about somebody winning and somebody losing, then we will never know peace.
  • That, so long as relationships are based on the idea that we are always posturing for power, for oneupmanship, for an accounting, or give and take as if it were all a measurable transaction, then we will never know peace in our families.
  • That, so long as my advantage is your disadvantage or you owe me or I am concerned that this time you need to buy me lunch or have I paid my dues and even if I tithe then maybe I'll be squared away with God... then we will never own an authentic spiritual peace...
I can't recommend the book "The Shack" as good theology or a great novel or a resource for people looking for answers. BUT, what author William Young does achieve is a masterful job of imagining what relationships within a Trinitarian God-Head might look like given the limits of our understanding of time and space. Complete self-giving mutual submission, in a never-ending overlapping celebration of love and respect; a relationship that has nothing to do with "I win" but everything to do with "We have this awesome opportunity to bless one-another" overlaid with "My only goal is peace and joy for the 'other'."

Until the same self-giving love that is perfected in the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit becomes deliberately practiced in this world then we will never know peace. Our relationships as individuals within the communities of family, church, neighborhood etc. all desperately need to understand the practical application of such love.

Israel, then, does not need to win. Winning will do nothing other than prolong the conflict. Sacrifice... respect... love of neighbor... love of enemy... These are the most powerful weapons we have in the world community - if we ever intend to be one.

PEACE - and I mean that - DEREK

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