Muslim, Christian, Jew

Muslim, Christian, Jew–

In a generic sense, any advancement in technology has the potential to be utilized for benefit and misused for harm. For millions of people in the industrialized world, the electric washing machine simplifies the chore of laundering clothes, but the same machine, when pushed from a tenth story window onto a busy sidewalk, becomes an instrument that redefines the term “permanent press”. Along a similar line, Iran attests to peaceful purposes for its nuclear program while Israel fears annihilation. The US and much of Europe discern the endeavor as a threat, as well, while Russia and China support the right of Iran, a sovereign country, to act as sovereign and shape its own future. Within the region, opinions are divided, also. Saudi Arabia may be no ally of Israel, but they are not thrilled at the prospect of a nuclear Iran. On the other hand, Lebanon endorses the destruction of Israel and, to that end, would support an attack by Hawaii, maybe even the Boston Red Sox. While we might dismiss these opposing attitudes as cultural incompatibility, the enmity that exists is, at its heart, based in religion, the ancient context of which is recorded in the scriptures of the Hebrew Bible, for it is the Law upon which our patriarchs built our systems of faith, a statement of fact that applies to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. In addition to this commonality, other considerations support a deferential approach to a situation with a cause (and solution, perhaps,) that is not of our making.

The sixth commandment is “Thou shalt not kill.” Of course, the sin of murder predates this ordinance and appears first in Genesis 4, wherein God accepts the offering of Abel but rejects the offering of Cain, who, in his anger, takes his brother into a field where he attacks and kills him. The punishment to which Cain is sentenced is later formalized in the Law of Moses, where, for premeditated murder (by deceit or treachery), God decrees that a man be removed “from my altar, that he may die” (Exodus 21:14). So the firstborn of Adam is separated “from the presence of the LORD” and from fellowship with his people. The generations of Adam do not mention Cain or his sons and daughters, and, in the great flood, his lineage finds no refuge aboard the ark. For his treachery, the first murderer is banished. Forever.

After the flood, a descendent of Shem, son of Noah, begets Abram. Abram (Abraham) takes a wife, Sarai (Sarah), who is unable to conceive. So that he might have an heir, Sarah gives to her husband an Egyptian slave woman, Hagar, who bears Ishmael. The birth of Ishmael is the first in the Judaic tradition to be announced by an angel of the LORD, who promises that her descendants will be innumerable and says, “Thou shalt call his name Ishmael” (Genesis 16). Later, after Abraham (at the demand of his wife) drives her and Ishmael away, an angel appears to Hagar again and saves them from death. As God promised, Ishmael becomes the father of a great nation: Islam. Then, to fulfill the covenant that He made with Abraham, God makes Sarah conceive and bear a son, Isaac. Isaac becomes the father of Jacob (Israel). In turn, Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, begets the line of kings into which Jesus is born. So, whether sons of Isaac or sons of Ishmael, we are all sons of Abraham, by blood, by ideology, or both. And if we share a father, we are brothers, whether we want to be or not. We are bound by the Book.

Now, rumors and threats of wars abound as tensions rise in the Middle East. Nuclear technology gives us the power to make consuming fire while “new” viruses (Schmallenburg) destroy our livestock. Around the world, fish die in untold numbers from causes known and unknown, and entire flocks of birds fall dead from the sky. Drug-resistant bacteria and exotic viruses threaten humanity and life as never before, and, across the globe, volcanoes awaken, earthquakes rumble, and the waves and winds roar. Rain floods here. Drought chokes there. Sometimes they coexist: a recent drought in Texas ended with a flood. The sun, as it nears the zenith of its cycle, bombards the solar system and our atmosphere with an array of charged particles, and we debate “global warming” as we beat our plowshares into swords. According to Deuteronomy 28, these troubles are the judgments which God promises to the disobedient . . . which, if the scope of recent changes establishes the pattern, appears to include the entire world and everybody in it. The heirs of the covenant are not excluded, nor are the sons of those known and blessed by the LORD, nor are the children of the children whose births were heralded by angels. It appears that the faithful are disbelievers, somehow, that the righteous are counted among the idolaters, and that even the true believers, those who live their faith, are as disobedient, as cursed, as the rebels and atheists who burn the scriptures. If this assessment is accurate, then, perhaps, now is a good time to examine our standing with the LORD whom we claim to follow. Rather than contend with others, we should pursue peace with, and draw near to, Him, first.

Or . . . let us not obey, repent, or change. Let us abandon hope for accord with one another. Let us not pursue peace. Instead, let us renew our resolve to be enemies, because it would be a shame to waste all of these bullets. Let the armies march, the planes fly, and the bombs drop, so that we make room for New Jerusalem by leveling the old one. Let us start a fire so vast that no one is spared, neither the guilty nor the innocent. With proper dedication and enough explosives, we can kill each other to extinction while we still have opportunity, before the wrath of God beats us to it. After all, we are capable of destroying ourselves without His help: with our arsenals, we got it covered; bloodshed is easy. We may not all be idolaters, mockers, heretics, or infidels, but neither was Cain. And, like him, we are not our brother’s keeper; we are his enemy. That God has blessed him and accepted him is meaningless. We forego self-restraint. We choose not to heed the warning, the good example of a bad example that is presented to us at the beginning of the Law, the Law that we claim to cherish and embrace, except for the parts that we ignore and neglect and forget to read altogether. We choose not to honor the love of God, choose not to accept the grace He gives, choose to be far from Him, and we draw first blood. In our hearts, we are sons of Cain. By our disobedience, we prove it. We reject peace. With malice, we kill our brothers. Because we are brothers. We are bound by the Book. And Heaven will not remember us.