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12.04.2018

A Problem Like Syria | Connecting with Culture

Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) should be enough to persuade us of the deeply ambiguous nature of existence in the time before the final harvest.

There is ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and both grow together until the end. Until then, we take seriously the inevitable messiness of life and the requirement for caution in some moral judgments. Unambiguous clarity is not always possible.

The alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime on its civilians has reignited debates on the principle of armed intervention. This week has seen threat and counter-threat, risking the escalation of conflict. Promises of action from Trump, May, and Macron have been countered with promises of reprisals from Putin, with Syrian civilians caught in the middle. While non-intervention is seen by some as appropriately cautious, others see it as an abdication of moral responsibility. There are MPs on both sides, campaigners on both sides, Syrians on both sides. And Christians – including Syrian Christians – are on both sides too.

For all of us, a bigger picture may provide some perspective. The Old Testament prophets make it clear that God holds nations to account. A nation or a people cannot conduct itself as though it were an ultimate end in itself. It must understand its own life in the context of a larger dynamic of which it is a part – and which will answer ultimately to God. There isn’t a direct match between ancient nations addressed by the prophets and their modern counterparts, but there is an uncanny resemblance in the reasons for which they are indicted – pride, greed, violence, injustice – and no one nation has a monopoly on those.

Indeed, the line between good and evil, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (who had good reason to yearn for regime change) reminded us, runs through our own hearts.

Prophetic sayings against the nations weren’t designed to deal with nitty-gritty decision-making in international politics. But they brought hope to the people of God – of his unrivaled supremacy in the world, and of his plan to bless all nations even while holding them to account.

Ambiguity about the best way forward needn’t lead to inaction or despair. Even when we can’t see it now, Christians of all people have reasons for hope and confidence. And to pray and work purposefully for things that make for peace now.

Author

Antony Billington

Comments

  1. A very timely reminder with the accent of God in its voice – thank you for Godly caution and urgent prayer

    By David Austin - 13th April 2018
  2. Today is the day of salvation ! Receive his free gift of eternal life today! See John 3v16 Believe and receive. NOthing us impossible with God. WE pray for the old to go and the New to come, hope for all mankind. All have fallen short of the glory of God, and he died for us even when we were still sinning . His gift is for everyone who humbles himself before God and repents turns to him and receives forgiveness and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Grace God’s Riches at Christs expense. Let us delight in him and pray for the WORLD. Blessings to all.

    By Gillian - 13th April 2018
  3. Good reflection – we need people of hope to point toward a place of mutual accountability. What are the nations going to do to understand and take wise actions of repentance (made these gases), forgiveness (amnesty to destroy the gases) and resolve to seek peace, justice and mercy for the people of Syria.

    By Ridgely Johnson - 13th April 2018
  4. So true!

    By Sue Bethel - 13th April 2018
  5. Shalom! Killing just a few more to teach the almost untouchable a lesson whilst potentially killing many more and risking still further conflagration and escalation of the very madness and anarchy that they say they want to challenge! The moral imperative is peace and for Christians to pray for God’s wisdom to overcome this madness and His ultimate justice over Nations and individuals. Thank You

    By David Evans - 13th April 2018
  6. Thanks for a very thoughtful and helpful piece.

    By John Steley - 13th April 2018
  7. Thank you for an extremely helpful perspective on current events.
    As you say, the OT clearly teaches that ‘God holds nations to account’ and in the NT Matthew 25: 31-36 seems to imply sheep and goat NATIONS being brought before the judgement seat of Christ.

    By Peter Riley - 13th April 2018
  8. Blessed are the peacemakers….?

    By Nigel A Wright - 13th April 2018
  9. Thanks for these thoughts, Anthony. It has been exercising my head, heart and soul this week. I put out a “Call to Pray for Syria” as we have had a monthly City-wide Prayer Gathering in Aberdeen prompted by the 2014 conflict in Syria and Iraq. It grieves me to see the pain and suffering caused to so many innocent civilians including children. The weeds are certainly growing with the wheat, but we need to pray “Your Kingdom come” that the wheat will continue to grow strong in such a messy and at times ugly world.

    By Hugh Wallace - 13th April 2018
  10. I agree that as Christians we should be seeking peace, but my observations of the “signs of the times”, and oF Daniel’s prophecies of 70 weeks make me wonder whether that search is now futile.
    We have ruined our home at every level you can think of, plastic pollution is in the news just now, but we are never told about the death of the Pacific Ocean (is there an irony there?) by radiation flowing still from the wrecked Fukushima power plant at a rate of 300 tons a day. Agrochemical companies’ products are killing the vital micro-organisms in our soil to the extent that environmentalists are warning farmland has only 50 years or so life left in it. And of course, there is Syria which has set the scene for Armageddon with all the biblically foretold players already involved.
    There are a number of Bible believing Christians to my own knowledge, and there must be many more, who believe the Great Tribulation will begin imminently, perhaps as early as next month, 70 years (weeks of Daniel) since the rebirth of the Israeli nation. Perhaps God’s time for peace on earth is over and He will fulfil the final prophecies.

    By Paul Finch - 13th April 2018
  11. Timely, thank you.

    By Robert Grayson - 13th April 2018
  12. As you say its complicated. Partly because the UK is accountable for destabilising the region with the Iraq war. Partly because the UK appears to have been attacked by Russia with a chemical agent attempted murder on British soil. So aside from God bringing nations to account, our leaders are accountable to us for defending us against threats – and preventing escalation in proscribed types of warfare that’s nuclear and chemical weapons. That does concern us directly. And that is why the UK will continue to be involved in the Syrian conflict not just as a world power trying to bring the conflict to an end. But also because Syria is a proxy war we are using to fight extremism in Islam and Russia. And we think it better to fight these wars on other people’s turf rather than our own. It seems to me that human accountability is all over this. So yes God brings nations to account and will bring the UK to account also. I don’t want gas and chemical attacks in my town but I have got used to them in Syria. God forgive me.

    By John Griffiths - 13th April 2018
  13. As you say its complicated. Partly because the UK is accountable for destabilising the region with the Iraq war. Partly because the UK appears to have been attacked by Russia with a chemical agent attempted murder on British soil. So aside from God bringing nations to account, our leaders are accountable to us for defending us against threats – and preventing escalation in proscribed types of warfare that’s nuclear and chemical weapons. That does concern us directly. And that is why the UK will continue to be involved in the Syrian conflict not just as a world power trying to bring the conflict to an end. But also because Syria is a proxy war we are using to fight extremism in Islam and Russia. And we think it better to fight these wars on other people’s turf rather than our own. It seems to me that human accountability is all over this. So yes God brings nations to account and will bring the UK to account also. I don’t want gas and chemical attacks in my town but I have got used to them in Syria. God forgive me.

    By John Griffiths - 13th April 2018
  14. The Syrian crisis has become personal because this year I began teaching English under the TESOL banner, to Syrian refugees, as part of our church ministry.
    As I work with these refugees, I am gripped by their stories. I am not detached but feel right in the middle of the horror.
    As I cried out to the Lord, my daily reading yesteday 12 April was Matt 25 where Jesus referred to the nations as goats and sheep. Yes we are part of the nations and we will be held accountable. The key thought was to care for the needy, and all those who suffer in various ways.
    And today, 13th I read your article Anthony and believe that God is speaking to me and teaching me to do my part. Thank you for a brilliant article.

    By Jean Sheehan - 13th April 2018
  15. Thanks, Antony.

    By Cynthia Tews - 13th April 2018
  16. Yes, governments are accountable, but we as Christians are asked by St Paul to pray for them.

    By Jeremy Johnson - 15th April 2018
  17. Paul Finch. I’m not so sure that JN Darby and the Rev Scofield got it right with their dispensations doctrine, or that current political Israel is the Israel of Biblical prophecy. We are now under a new covenant whose centre is Christ.

    By Philip McFedries - 18th April 2018

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