Lately there has been a great deal of publicity and social media chatter about the movie, American Sniper. Of course everyone is also talking about the Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who was burned to death by ISIS fighters.
I struggle with these things.
I spent ten years in the Army Reserve. For years I collected and read books on military history and one of the books that I liked was about the Marine sniper, Carlos Hathcock, who was the “most lethal” sniper during the Vietnam war and whose record held until Chris Kyle broke it. I have always admired the courage and fortitude of men like Carlos Hathcock. At the same time, seeing a helpless, caged man burned to death (I haven’t actually seen it. I just can’t bring myself to watch a man die) stirs an incredible anger in me.
A part of me wants revenge.
But as much as we have made heroes out of men like Carlos Hathcock and Chris Kyle, and martyrs out of men like Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, we ought to stop and think about what God wants.
We know how these things make us feel.
But how does God feel?
While it is true that our God is a god of Justice, and while it is true that God has sent armies to destroy evil and to avenge wrongdoing, God is also a god of compassion, mercy and love. In cases like these, clearly, we find that there is tension between the world that exists and what God wants.
But even if, in the darkest sense, we assume that God desires for evil to be destroyed and that, at least by our definition, ISIS is that evil, what do we know about God?
I do not pretend to know the mind of God.
God did not speak to me from Mount Sinai.
It is not my place to declare that God wants to kill or destroy ISIS regardless of their violence and evil. If we have learned anything from history, we should know that it is not the place of human beings to go to war under the assumption that we have been “sent by God” or that we are doing the “will of God.”
Unless God speaks to me in a clear and audible voice, I am not likely to change my opinion on that.
But I think that the message of scripture tells us quite clearly how God feels.
God loves the people of his creation. God loves the Jews, and the Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, Muslims, and everyone else.
God claims all of us as his children.
And God desires for every one of his children to come to him. That, after all, is the message of scripture and especially the message of Jesus and the New Testament.
God loves us so much that he was willing to sacrifice the most valuable thing he had, his own son, in order to rescue us. God loves humanity so much that he was willing to set aside his God-ness, come to earth in human flesh, and suffer and die as one of us, all so that we might have the chance to live forever in his home.
And so I honestly don’t know how God feels about Chris Kyle or Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh except that he must feel like any other parent who watches their children fight. God loved Chris Kyle, and Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, and the men they killed, and the men that killed them.
Every one of them, whether they were Americans, Jordanians, ISIS fighters, Christians or Muslims, were his beloved children.
And with us, God watched them die.
And so, although I cannot say whether God sent Chris Kyle to impose some kind of “divine judgment,” I do know something else that is certain.
Just as any parent who watches a child die, when God watches the horror that is war…
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