Tuesday, April 27, 2004

There's Got to be a Lesson in This Somewhere

LONDON — A puppy that swallowed a kitchen knife nearly the length of his body is back to his playful self after an operation to remove it.

The baffled owners of 12-week-old Jake took him to the vet when they noticed him vomiting and trying to keep his body in a straight line.

X-rays revealed why the puppy was so reluctant to curl up: A kitchen knife was running through his body, with the plastic handle at the base of his pelvis and the blunted metal point at the top of his throat.

"Dogs are always swallowing strange things, from kebab sticks to corn-on-the-cobs to tape cassettes, but this was particularly unusual because it was such a large knife in a small puppy. It really did run the length of his body," said vet Christina Symonds on Wednesday.

The owner, John Mallett, 22, said he knew something was wrong but had no idea the Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross had swallowed the knife. "He would put his feet on you and put his head back, trying to keep his body in a straight line," said Mallett.

Jake was back on his feet less than 24 hours after the operation on March 30. "He's totally back to his old self," said Mallet.

This has to be up there with Jesus' parabolic rebuke to those who strain at gnats and swallow camels!
Vengeance: Human and Divine

It's now been nearly seven years ago that Judge Hiller B. Zobel made a decision that sparked both anger and relief.

On October 30, 1997, Louise Woodward was convicted by a jury of second degree murder in the death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen. Arguing that it was time to bring a “compassionate conclusion” to the British au pair murder trial, Zobel reduced Woodward’s murder conviction to man-slaughter and set her free.

I don’t know all the sordid details of this tragic affair. But, there remains one haunting fact that will not be ignored: an 8-month-old, helpless child was killed.

I still think of the parents of that baby. Empty arms. Long nights. Strained relations. It’s situations like this one that make Jesus’ command to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” even more poignant (Matthew 5:44).

This case, and others like it, create in my heart a gnawing ache for justice. And, I know I’m not alone. To use a biblical word, humans intrinsically have a yearning for “vengeance.” While polite society outwardly recoils at these thoughts, all moral beings have a sense of justice.

And, this desire for vengeance is a biblically legitimate one. Certain psalms, for example, throb with an intense desire for retaliatory justice (cf. Psalm 109: 1-19). The Bible, therefore, validates our human longing for vengeance. Yet, on the other hand, it reminds us that vengeance is the sole privilege of God, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay” (Hebrews 10:25; Psalm 135:14).

As we struggle with our desires for vengeance, we need to be reminded of several biblical truths. (1) God is not indifferent in a moral Universe. He does take notice of, and responds to, human acts of injustice. (2) Since vengeance belongs to God, it is not personal, human business. (3) As were the psalmists, we are invited to express freely our indignant feelings for vengeance to God.

When we keep these truths close to our hearts, we will be in a better position to live a vengeance-free ethic, and choose to love those on the other side of justice as Jesus commanded—even the Louise Woodward’s of our fallen world.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Easter and the Christus Victor

As I write these words, our military continues to struggle Iraq. Over a year ago, we were given a near front row seat of coalition operations by means of news personnel embedded within military divisions. If you are anything like me, it was hard not to be glued to the TV or radio, listening for any new developments that might signal a quick and decisive end to the conflict.

While the initiall blitzkreig into Baghdad is over, our troups remain in harm's way. Although, the victory over Saddam Hussein's regime was decisive, there is much more dangerous work to accomplish. Nearly each day we hear news of yet another American troup killed in conflict. How is it that, though a decisive victory was won, fighting--and casualities--continue?

This current situation brings home an often overlooked scriptural dimension to Easter: Jesus’ resurrection won a victory over the powers of evil (the Christus Victor—the victory of Christ). As we typically associate Easter with niceties such as egg hunts, bonnets, and new outfits, perhaps we need to be reminded that the work of Jesus had to do with “binding the powers, dethroning the powers, and assuring his disciples and followers that the powers will be utterly destroyed and routed out of the world at the end of history” (Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Faith, p. 46).

Over the past several decades, people largely have abandoned an implicit optimism in humanity—the idea that humans are inherently good and have the intellectual and technological means to make our world increasingly better. Two World Wars, ruthless dictators, and increased acts of brutality--not to mention the tragedy of 9/11--have appropriately awakened our society to the reality of evil.

It’s appropriate for us—God’s people—to appreciate once again the “powers” that Jesus came to bind and dethrone. While Easter is now past, let’s remember that it signaled a moment in history when God engaged in mortal combat with Satan’s hordes and, by the resurrection, won a decisive victory for us (1 Cor. 15:57).

Our hope, therefore, does not lie in our own abilities to make our world a better place. It lies in the fact that Jesus Christ is alive forevermore, and has the keys of hell and death (Rev. 1:18). It is that reality that we celebrate on Easter...and every day. And, may we celebrate--and continue our struggle against evil--as victors with Christ!