Listening to the section of President Bush's State of the Union address that dealt with international affairs, I found I had two reactions. I was dismayed at the thought of war if Iraq continues to refuse to account for and destroy its weapons of mass destruction, but I was heartened at the President's closing words, "We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history."
We have two adult children, one in the US Army Reserves and one on active duty with the US Marine Corps. The thought of war, and of my children and the children, fathers, mothers, spouses, brothers, sisters, cousins, and dear friends of others going into harm's way, is indeed disturbing.
We are, and will continue to be, proud of those near and dear to us who have chosen to serve their country in this way, but we are worried for their safety nevertheless. And we attempt to understand the enormity of the challenge facing us all with the threat of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. So the face of war is something personal, not abstract at all.
It's important to recognize that "the loving God behind all of life, and all of history" isn't an abstract concept either. God is the universal Father-Mother of us all. This makes it imperative to pray for the whole world. Our prayers, besides including world leaders and innocent civilians, should embrace those serving in all armed forces of all nations. The all-inclusive God doesn't choose sides. Therefore, we can't demonize "the other side."
But, in spite of all goodwill and strong warnings, a diplomatic solution may prove impossible to reach in today's political environment. It's difficult for me to accept that war in the short term, and intensive nation-building activities - not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq in the long term - may be inevitable and even necessary. To me, Christ Jesus' "new commandment," "Love one another" (see John 13:34), seemed hard to reconcile with the thought of war and occupation of a hostile country.
After I heard the speech, I was praying about the situation, and I turned to the Bible, as I've learned to do in times of personal stress over the years. Now, I wanted to get a hook on which to hang my prayers - a starting point.
What I found surprised me. It's two verses from the book of Romans, where I read, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:35, 37).
This was a wake-up call. We are so bound to the loving God as His image and likeness that there can't be any separation. Neither peril nor sword can separate us - or anyone else, really - from God's love. But we are called to be "more than conquerors."
A conquering army might march in with hatred toward the foe and engage in brutal acts of reprisal - pillage, rape, exploitation, torture, and murder. But we're commanded to bring the touch of Christ to whatever we're doing, whether it's serving in the armed forces or loving those who do. To me, this means that forgiveness, charity, and kindness need to be mixed in with our vigilance, even if military action becomes necessary to ensure a lasting peace.
During the war with Vietnam, Bob Dylan's incisive song, "With God on our side," poked at the hypocrisy of assuming that God indeed takes sides or opts for one ideology or ethnic group over another. Acknowledging "the loving God behind all of life, and all of history" takes us out of that quandary.
Whether on the frontlines or sidelines, we can pray from the basis of the all-inclusive God who is Love itself. This makes us more than conquerors. It makes us, wherever we are, participants in prayer. This prayer will keep us safe, free from vengeance and anger, and it will bring us all home again, to a durable peace.
May the God of all grace
give you peace.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)