Armodoxy for Today: All Civil Wars
What good is a crying god? It’s a legitimate question and was asked by several listeners after yesterday’s podcast. In the midst of coldhearted and barbaric attacks on the children of Artsakh by Azerbaijan, I pointed to where we might find God in these scenes of horrendous evil: crying with His children, crying because His children have opted for war over peace, hate over love. It was St. Nersess Shnorhali, the 12th century Patriarch, theologian and ecumenist, who suggested the anguish of God by remembering the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the epic hymn “Aysor Anjan” Shnorhali visits scenes from the Crucifixion from the Eye of God, the Creator. He masterfully weaves together the event with the deeper love of a Father, a Creator, who has given His child unbridled freedom, even freedom to disobey. Shnorhali recounts how the Face of God was boldly slapped by servants (Matthew 26:67), the same Face that the angels in Heaven shielded from their glance with their wings. Looking at the Cross, Shnorhali sees the “Giver of the laws” was now standing between two lawless people (the thieves on the crosses next to Jesus). In 36 magnificent verses, corresponding to the letters of the Armenian alphabet, Shnorhali painstakingly presents God, who in His infinite love as our Creator, does not stop the Crucifixion, but allows this atrocity to take place.
Closer to our generation, Mel Gibson produced, directed and co-wrote the epic Biblical drama, “The Passion of the Christ.” There, in a most memorable scene, where the last bit of Life is beaten and poured out of Jesus on the Cross, the camera angle moves to heaven, from where the teardrop of God is seen falling earthward, shaking the world with His disgust for what had taken place on Golgatha.
And if everything finished on the day of Crucifixion, that is on Good Friday, questioning God as powerless would be justified. But we are privy to the ending, knowing that the story is one of victory on Easter Sunday with the Resurrection.
Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30) “No one has seen the face of the Father but the one who comes from the Father.” (John 6:46) In other words, Jesus is giving us an answer to who God is and whether we admit it or not, pop culture, Hollywood and even glorified tales from the Old Testament have conditioned us to think otherwise and believe in a superman-type of God. When tragedy befalls an innocent person, we expect God to swoop out of the sky and punch evil, whether a dictator or a cancerous cell, out into oblivion. Wrong script. That’s what superman does. Old Testament conditioning adds to the image problem by insisting that God favors groups of people over others. Jesus made it very clear; God is the God of the universe and those who belong to God’s family, are the ones who act on His commandments. “Here are My mother and My brothers!”, says Jesus “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” (Mark 3:34-35)
There are no birthrights. God doesn’t love one group of people more than another. Remember, for God, all wars are civil wars. All wars are between brothers, in the eyes of God. We are all His people. Imagine the pain and suffering he endures when two of His children fight and eventually kill one another.
When we understand God as a caring, loving and compassionate Father, we are following the teaching of Jesus Christ, the One who taught us to pray, “Our Father” not “My Father,” but “Our Father who is in heaven.” The suffering and caring God is more powerful than the superman-type of god, because He moves us to action, to be responsible for our own destiny. Peace will come when we act, when we extend our hand to one other, when we have respect for all humankind. In simple terms, the words of the angel at the birth of Jesus must be heard, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward one another.” (Luke 2:14). That is, peace will come when we ourselves reach out with goodness and love.
All the calls for unity, for compassion and for activism cannot be answered by Superman or any other hero. It is a call for each of us, to understand the special and unique strength we each hold to bring about change.
We pray, Heavenly Father, You gave Your only begotten son, Jesus Christ as an expression of love. Your love knows no bounds. It is freely given and belongs to all. Tonight, as my brothers and sisters around the world, whether in Artsakh or on the streets surrounding my home, are in turmoil, fill me with your love, so that I may extend my arm, open my hand, and embrace their pain. May I become the ambassador of your Love, by having respect and goodwill toward everyone I encounter. Amen.
Cover photo: Inside Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, Shushi, Artsakh, Armenia: The innocent find refuge. Historic memory from 2014