Prayer for Libya
Obviously things have been very, very bad in Libya for a long time now. However, with President Obama’s announcement yesterday and the international military operation taking place in Libya’s skies at this very moment, we have reached a critical juncture. We find ourselves staring death, violence, and destruction in the face. There is no good solution for the nations, forced to go to war. With images of explosions and planes falling from the sky rolling in, do not be desensitized from the violence.
Moammar Gadhafi and others like him have committed unspeakable evils and it seems like violence is the only way the nations can stop him. While it is difficult for the Church to speak in this situation, one thing we can say is this: Do not glorify this violence. The worst thing we can do in this situation is see what the United States, France, and Britain are doing as good. Even from the perspective of the State, it must be seen as a necessary evil, never as a good. When we condone violence as a good, all is lost. Sometimes the State sees violence as necessary to prevent greater violence, and on its terms it is correct. However, that does not make violence good, only a necessary evil.
What is the Church to do? There are two things. The first is very difficult. In Resident Aliens (Abingdon Press, 1989), William Willimon has this conversation with some students at Duke University:
Sometime ago, when the United States bombed military and civilian targets in Libya, a debate raged concerning the morality of that act. One of us witnessed an informal gathering of students who argued the morality of the bombing of Libya. Some thought it was immoral, others thought it was moral. At one point in the argument, one of the students turned and said, “Well, preacher, what do you think?”
I said that, as a Christian, I could never support bombing, particularly bombing of civilians, as an ethical act.
“That’s just what we expected you to say,” said another. ”That’s typical of you Christians. Always on the high moral ground, aren’t you? You get so upset when a terrorist guns down a little girl in an airport, but when President Reagan tries to set things right, you get indignant when a few Libyans get hurt.”
The assumption seemed to be that there are only two political options: either conservative support of the administration, or liberal condemnation of the administration followed by efforts to let the U. N. handle it.
“You know, you have a point,” I said. “What would be a Christian response to this?” Then I answered, right off the top of my head, “A Christian response might be that tomorrow morning The United Methodist Church announces that it is sending a thousand missionaries to Libya. We have discovered that it is a fertile field for the gospel. We know how to send missionaries. Here is at least a traditional Christian response.”
“You can’t do that,” said my adversary.
“Why?” I asked. ”You tell me why.”
“Because it’s illegal to travel in Libya. President Reagan will not give you a visa to get there.”
“No! That’s not right,” I said. ”I’ll admit that we can’t go to Libya, but not because of President Reagan. We can’t go there because we no longer have a church that produces people who can do something this bold. But we once did.”
We would like a church that again asserts that God, not nations, rules the world, that the boundaries of God’s kingdom transcend those of Caesar, and that the main political task of the church is the formation of people who see clearly the cost of discipleship and are willing to pay the price.
Different time, different situation, but there’s a principle that remains the same. The task of the Church now, in the aftermath of this war that will possibly (and hopefully) soon be over, is to judge Libya as a ground ready for planting the Gospel. We need to send missionaries not just with good news, but with medical experience, food, water, and whatever else is needed in Libya.
Our second response, which is one you can do right now, is to pray. As a Church, we don’t pray thinking it to simply be a nice gesture. I don’t know how to explain to you how prayer if efficacious or to what extent it is, but I know that it is our Christian obligation. So join me in praying for our brothers and sisters in Libya:
Father, we pray for your peace. We admit our frailty and shortcomings in not doing all that we can to prevent conflict in the world. We ask for forgiveness for all that we have failed to do. But now, in this day of war, we ask for your peace again. We ask for you peace for Libya, for North Africa, for the Middle East, for the World. We ask for your comfort to come to the oppressed people of the world. We ask also for a courage and a boldness to sweep over your Church, a courage and boldness that produces missionaries, priests, and preachers with hearts for Libya. We ask that you send them into the dark places of the world to shine a light for all to see, to be a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. We ask, Father, for an end to all violence and oppression, we pray that your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. We pray all this in the name of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Posted on 19 March 2011, in Church, Current Events and tagged Church, Justice, Libya, Missionaries, Nonviolence, Oppression, Peace, Prayer, Resident Aliens, Violence, War, William Willimon. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.