As I reflect upon the world situation today, having had an extended conversation with one of my Catholic friends just yesterday, about the world situation, its wars, the danger presented to ancient Iraqi Christians presented by Islamic infighting in ancient lands around the city of Mosel, (near the foundational city of Nineveh) and Pope Francis and his efforts to make a difference in the world, I am reminded of the scripture below:
4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
It is not my intention to give an in depth exegesis of the text above, but what I am thinking about is the topic of submission.
The text above specifically addresses the cause of fighting and wars among a specific group of people, Christians, and I do not put the word Christian in quotes this time. these are real foundational Christians that were at war with one another. The text mentions also an inner battle, a battle that is within us, within Christians, that is, and I personally believe a battle that is within all human beings. The text mentions the proper way to resist the forces of Evil which seem to plague the world and estrange Christians, and I believe all mankind from the closeness and nearness to God which God desires for us. Although the text is specifically written to Christians at war with one another, I can only imagine that submission to God, and a recognition of the fallen nature within us, and the nascent seed or spark of God within us that enables mankind to interface with God, is a solution to this world’s war and overcoming Evil, whether or not we are Christians at this time.
Before going any farther, I need to state that I am a committed Christian, and attempt to express my views from within this Christian culture, not to the exclusion of other cultures and belief systems which may also have important and valuable contributions to the Kingdom of God, such as the Islamic sect of Sufism, whose leader was Rumi, or Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad, or others. If I am wrong in any way, please feel free to offer your comments from whatever belief system you frequent.
Submit yourselves…. (plural) indicates we live in community with each other. Specifically we are speaking in context of Christian community, but I believe the principle may be applied to all mankind as a method of overcoming Evil. Also, firstly, I believe we should submit our self, singular in this quest of overcoming Evil.
Most of us in any belief system want to overcome Evil. In overcoming Evil, from my viewpoint, Nonviolence “works” but it does not always “win” or work if we use it to overcome others externally. Our focus in nonviolence should be to overcome firstly the selfish self within us and to submit to the image of God or seed of God within us.
The softening and nurturing of the inner seed within us and the realization that we are delivered from evil within ourselves firstly is crucial before we can nonviolently resist external evils in society or internal evils in others. We cannot deliver ourselves. It takes, a village, as in the Lord’s prayer, “Deliver us from evil” a trust and submission to God to deliver “us” from our internal selfishness.
Some call this a conversion experience. Some call this inner blooming of the seed of the Kingdom of God within us being “Born Again. Others call it being infected by the spirit of Jesus.
As we submit ourselves to one another, in love for one another, this blossoming of our spirits can result in radical transformation, not just of ourselves, or, our self, but the internal softening of other selves, and self, as the nonviolent, peaceful inner submission and infection interfaces and joins other like minds or selves created in God’s image.
I quote from http://www.holylandmoments.org/devotionals/we-are-all-connected
“Albert Einstein once observed, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.”
All people, even from a scientific perspective, are really one entity. And so, yes, it makes perfect sense that the actions of one affect us all. Just as a problem with our foot affects our entire body, toxic fumes in China can disrupt the atmosphere around the globe. Judaism says this principle holds true spiritually as well. The sins of one person impact us all.”
Albert Einstein, a fellow member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, by the way, seems to have thought, that if we, as human beings are thinking that our self is not connected and accountable to others and perhaps should be in submission to others, we are suffering from delusionary thoughts that are outside of the universe of reality. Let us then, submit ourselves to one another.
The Book of Romans is about submission. Submission to authority is just one point. The major point before submission to external forces (have you ever met authority as a person? I have not.) is to submit to God and offer ourselves in submission to God first, as in the text from James 4 above, and above all, and if needed, and nonviolently submit to authority and in some cases resist that authority because we have submitted to God firstly. If the authority is motivated by Evil intents, perhaps it will actually be afraid, and flee from us. But, we must keep in mind, perhaps Evil will not immediately flee, and our desire is to continue submission to God, regardless of the consequences.
Before we can be effective in this submission, it is necessary we are in relationship with “others” even the “others” we may believe we “resist” such as policemen with dogs, military people with tanks, political people not telling the complete truth, people who make nuclear weapons, people who seem to be in opposition to us, or otherwise we might term as “enemies.”
An often overlooked tool of nonviolence and submission, and never used as an exhaustion of the “all means” tenant of the “just” war theory is that we “love our enemies.” Sometimes the enemy can be us, and inside our own selves if we are not in submission to the seed of inner love in ourselves, planted by a Divine source, waiting upon fruition. By developing some kind of dialog, some kind of relationship, and some kind of love for the “enemy” we embark upon a journey of overcoming evil with good.
I like the idea Pope Francis had just this week as I begin to write this, to invite opposing parties such as Israel and Palestinian leaders to pray together with him and the leader of the Orthodox Church. This has been termed “ineffective” by some, but to me, it has had an internal effect upon those involved and an internal effect upon all who hear of the matter. Concerning the Pope, as I edit this article, today, June 22, 2014, just yesterday the Pope issued excommunication orders for the Italian Mafia whom he termed glorifies violence and Evil. Let us all pray for Pope Francis and his protection, as he wrestles with Evil forces who would like to see him dead.
It is not just our own selves, but our own Nations, and the entire world that is seems, according to Christian tradition God desires to be in submission:
9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
The above Scripture, seems to me, to be the nexus of the Kingdom of God and the original intent of the creation of the good earth. The Kingdom of God is not just intended for American culture, but for all of mankind. I think it is a narrow view if we include only our own nation, our own denomination, or the Roman Catholic Church only, or the Eastern Orthodox Church only, of even the Christian religion only, and attempt to exclude Jewish folk, Islamic folk, Atheist folk, or any folk, for that matter, who can imagine this kinder and gentler vision of the internal seed of God planted within us, and submit to it.
In the end we must conclude that our inner submission is about finding and joining the Kingdom of God that is within us, which is a Kingdom proclaimed by a Gospel of Peace, Good News that is told about in Hebrew scriptures as a Kingdom of Grace and Peace beginning with God walking with us in our gardens, internal gardens, that is, and envisioned as the beating of our swords into plowshares, and envisioned as the child playing at the hole of the asp, with a lion and a lamb and no more hurt or pain. Also this peaceable Kingdom of God was promoted by Jesus whose inner being reveals to us the image of God who asks us to begin loving our enemies, NOW, TODAY, including defeating any enemies we have within us, such as hatred, jealousy, and selfishness and overcoming the Evil within us with the divine Love He has placed in us via the image of God, the foretaste of the fulfilled Kingdom of God within every man regardless of race, religion, or nationality.
We are all asked by God to be members of this Kingdom and all be our brother’s keepers, and by Jesus to love one another, as he loved us. However, there are requirements of membership like believing in the Kingdom within us, and submitting to it. We have eternity to submit, and I believe we can submit to it out of the depths of hell, whatever, hell may be to us, but I also believe for us, and for you, that today is the day to do it. It is better to do it now. The invitation from Christian sources for your inner submission to a Kingdom that is within you, and is coming soon, an invitation that is continual, from God who comes to us internally, to whom we ought to submit internally, is recited below:
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
Grace and Peace forever,