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Ray Rooney, Jr.: The Only Path to Peace
Monday, December 30, 2013 1:49 PM

Most people know how the story goes.  Joseph and Mary get engaged.  Mary is found to be pregnant before they actually wed.  Joseph, knowing full well he did not get Mary pregnant, has resolved to part ways with her quietly so as not to bring attention to her infidelity.  How could he have so misjudged her character?  It takes an angelic visitation in a dream to convince Joseph that his bride-to-be has indeed been faithful to him. 

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Mary and Joseph, God has done something in the starry sky that pagan astrologers far away from the Holy Land somehow correctly interpret as being a sign that a King is to be born in Israel.  They make the long journey from the East and arrive very near the time of the birth of Jesus.  Unfortunately, they go straight to Herod (the Roman appointee as king of Israel) and ask where the new king of the Jews has been born.  News of a newborn King is not exactly what a reigning king wants to hear so Herod hatches a plan.  He assembles his religious scholars who, upon poring over the Scriptures, discover that the prophet Micah had predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Informing the Magi he points them to Bethlehem and asks only that when they find the new king they return to let him know where he is so that he too may go and worship Him.  We know, however, that it was murder, not worship, which Herod was planning. 

We all know the Magi found the Royal Family with the help of something in the night sky.  They worshiped Jesus and bestowed gifts and made camp for the night intending to go back to Jerusalem and tell Herod where the Christ was.  They too had a dream which convinced them that going back to Jerusalem was not a good idea.  They left soon thereafter going straight back to their homeland.  When Herod found out they did not come back to him he was filled with anger and rage.  If he couldn’t pinpoint the exact location he would kill every baby boy in Bethlehem!  Before he can succeed an angel warns Joseph in another dream and tells him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt.  They flee.  The soldiers arrive in Bethlehem and carry out their ghastly orders.  It’s the horrific precursor to Newtown.  Madness.  Death.  Horrific loss.  Unimaginable pain.

Let’s whittle it down to the bare bones.  God puts a sign in the sky proclaiming His Son’s imminent birth.  The Magi see it, correctly interpret it, and travel to Jerusalem.  They inform Herod of their quest and intentions.  Herod murders all the boys in Bethlehem under age 2 while Jesus and His parents escape.  Not too many people look at Christmas that way do they?

It seems to me, for people of faith, there are really only two possibilities here:

The unspeakable loss of life in Bethlehem is God’s fault.  Had it not been for His sign in the heavens the Magi would not have travelled to Jerusalem and alerted Herod.  Without that happening there would be no loss of life in Bethlehem. 

The path to peace is painful and heart-wrenching for everyone…including God!

Having been in the pastoral ministry for almost 28 years my experience tells me that most churchgoers tend to number 1.  Not overtly.  Maybe not even consciously.  Nonetheless, I have found many Christians harbor great animosity over all the painful things God failed to intervene in and stop.  It’s in our nature.  And it goes all the way back to Adam.  When God questioned Adam about the one tree he was forbidden to eat from Adam replied, “The woman, whom you gave to be with me…”  God created the woman.  The woman gave the forbidden fruit to Adam.  God’s fault.  We repeat that line every time innocence is lost, “Why did you let it happen God?”  And every time we are personally wounded by evil or hurt by loss we ask God why He doesn’t care.

When it comes to living in a fallen world people of faith yearn for a magician; not a companion.  We want peace, salvation, and holiness with a Bewitched twitch of the nose or an I Dream of Jeannie nod and blink.  Because we really don’t want the alternative: a suffering God who hurts as much as we do, who cries like we do.  That would mean we are assured of the same.

People are fond of acting like they look forward to the day when God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4).  In truth, we are offended that God would create a world where tear ducts are even necessary for the human body.

What we want is to believe that sin is merely a primitive memory; at worst it is a pesky inconvenience.  We want to believe that pain has no place in God’s plan of salvation. We want to believe that it is impossible for us to personally be responsible for pain in the Godhead.  What we want is to completely absolve ourselves from any and all guilt in Eden, Bethlehem, or Calvary.  “It’s not my fault.  I wasn’t there.” God was and could have prevented it.

Here are some things we try not to think about.  Mary and Joseph lived the rest of their lives under the shadow of shame and dishonor.  The gossip about Mary’s supposed sexual tryst with another while engaged to Joseph probably followed her all the days of her life.  Didn’t God foresee that?  Here is another: Mary, Joseph, and Jesus all lived with the terrible knowledge that there would have been no massacre of children in Bethlehem…had it not been for them.

If you are looking for an easy path to peace, forgiveness, and eternal life devoid of hurt and confusion…look anywhere but the Bible and Christianity!  Because here are the facts.  The God I know fled from Herod weeping with the parents of the little ones who did not get away.  The God I know stayed His hand of wrath every single time small-minded evil people called Mary things that are too shameful and disgusting to even write down.  The God I know was wracked with hurt and pain every time the Roman flagrum sunk into His Son’s flesh ripping and tearing it.  The God I know was silent as Jesus took all the sins of the world on His own shoulders succumbing to its awful weight.  And the God I know watched with tears in His eyes as His only Son descended into hell.

The path to peace is indeed painful for everyone…even God.  It does exist.  Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.  But He still bears the scars in His memory and His flesh.  It was a painful path. 

How are you trying to find peace?

Ray Rooney, Jr.

 

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