Ezekiel 33:7-11 Psalm 119:33-40 Romans 13:8-14 Matthew 18:15-20
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
I’ve got to tell you that the situation involving North Korea is worrying us deeply, we have family and friends in South Korea and although tension like this has existed for over sixty years this time it is truly more troubling. The Gospel speaks as to how such a problem can be managed. The two opposing parties are to discuss the problem directly. No resolution ! Take it to a few other respected people. No resolution ! Take it to a larger group, in this case, the United Nations. There, North Korea was ostracised by initial sanctions, which, after each perceived offence, were just added to and added to. The trouble is that two powerful United Nations members do not stand with the majority of members and consequently sanctions as Jesus prescribed have proved ineffectual in bringing peace and understanding.
The lesson for us in the Church is twofold. As Paul says we need to have been honourable in our actions (we should practice what we preach) and we should have a united front so we can pool our resources to improve the Church’s impact in the world. Jesus wants the Church to be One Body, we profess it, but regrettably we don’t live it. We dilute the impact we have because we have too many differing opinions as to what to do and results are not conclusive because resources from any one Church are limited. In spite of many good works the Church is in danger of losing its social mission to the world (Deuteronomy 10:18).
We often look to the Early Church and admire its miraculous growth and wonder why we can’t emulate that today. Truth is, the Early Church, acting as one, took care of the destitute, the afflicted and the refugee, pagan and Christian alike, when no one else would, notably the powerful and the rich Roman Empire.
In the Gospel lesson today Jesus is talking about reasonable people within the Church and supposes that one side is right and the other wrong. In that situation the person in the wrong would soon regret his actions and look for reconciliation. That is not the case with North Korea though. In the Armistice of 1953 one of the conditions was that the United States would not increase its military presence there but in 1958 the US for the first time brought atomic weapons into the Korean peninsula (I am sure you can see the irony in that) and consequently North Korea felt vulnerable given the United States’ propensity to go marching up and down on the Earth (Job 2:2), wielding its military might to serve its own interests and its own agenda, look at Vietnam and Iraq and Libya and Syria and Afghanistan as recent examples, none of which turned out well.
North Korea consequently followed a path of self-protection as anyone backed into a corner would naturally do. They responded to a bully by standing up to him and that is what they are doing now by developing nuclear weapons. They need a bargaining chip other than the protection of China, which itself is petrified of American proximity should it occupy North Korea directly or by proxy. Russia on the other side of the world has similar fears of the United States and NATO troops in Europe, which include Canadians, being too close to Russia’s borders. Friends we live in a troubled world brought about by the worst side of human nature.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” – folks, we need a few right now (Matthew 5:9). So, how do we set the tables straight?
Frankly I think we have been relying too heavily on our own ineffectual abilities to fix things because the evidence shows we haven’t fixed anything. Jesus in our Gospel says speak to God about our problems, give them to Him. The corollary I believe is that we must deal honestly with each other; God is not going to intervene if we pull the rug out from under His feet and deal dishonestly, recall Paul’s advice today. I know North Korea is an officially atheist state, as is China, and that the USA is only nominally Christian but all people are of God’s creation and consequently all are loved by Him.
‘Who is my neighbour’ for some is a very difficult question to answer right now but the answer is obvious to the children of God. My neighbour is every person who lives and breathes regardless of their nationality, colour, race, sex or whatever category you want to use. That means even the North Koreans who are giving the whole world palpitations are our neighbours and unless we want to fly in the face of our Christian creed, we are to love them. And it’s not good enough to say love the person and hate their actions, we have to do something positive. I’m not going to ask you to create a mission to North Korea and inject yourselves into the fray that way, the recently released Reverend Lim would agree with that but I am going to ask you sincerely to do what Jesus says – pray for them. Pray for Kim Jon-Un and Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, they are the key players in this mess. Ask God to give them what Solomon prayed for, that is, wise and discerning minds (1 Kings 3:9) and ask that they will use them to overcome this crisis peacefully.
This crisis is not just about other people and other countries. What happens in the next while, good or catastrophic, is going to affect us. So pray for God’s help in saving His people. If you are stuck for words you couldn’t do much better that to recite today’s Psalm asking for God to bring those thoughts into the minds of the leaders involved in this crisis. Or you can pray this prayer for Peace (BAS 677); O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace. Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to your Church, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
And to remind us of our mission see how the words of Ezekiel fit the situation and see how the responsibility for at least trying to bring about a good outcome lies with us. We cannot wash our hands of it either as individuals or as a nation. We don’t want to be like Cain, he asked God “Am I my brother’s keeper ?” (Genesis 4:9). Of course the answer is ‘yes’. So pray for peace it is our duty and our privilege to do so. Amen.