Lessons Learned on the Road to Damascus
Photo by Flickr user upyernoz
Syria is imploding, with unspeakable massacres and civil war. Inevitably, in some way, the U.S. and its allies will step in — as we did in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Whether we like it or not, our nation is on the road to Damascus, Syria’s capital. The apostle Paul found that road deeply life-changing. What will our nation be open to learn as we turn our own journey toward Damascus?
Classics scholar Sarah Ruden, in Christianity Today in September 2010, said, “What characterizes our society at its best is the habit of looking at ourselves with a critical attitude. I think this really started for Western civilization on the road to Damascus. Paul is doing what he’s expected to do in his environment. He’s involved in persecution … .[Then] he has this revelation, and is forced to answer the questions. What are you doing? What are you actually doing? Why are you persecuting me? That is, what you do to the world, what you do to other people, is what you do to God.”
Whatever our nation does in Damascus in the weeks ahead will happen with the best of intentions. We, of course, want to stop massacres like the horrific ones that recently killed 100 or more in Tremseh and an estimated 17,000 Syrians in the last 16 months.
But what if, at the same time as our nation takes noble humanitarian action in Syria, Congress cuts millions or billions of dollars from international food aid programs that last year helped tens of millions of people in war-torn, famine- ridden parts of Africa? What if just 100 or 200 children die in the year ahead because they don’t get timely, nutritious food assistance from the U.S.? Don’t we have our own Tremseh on our consciences … but without the headlines and media outrage?
Tremseh is deservedly labeled a morally despicable act by a despotic regime. Cutting funds for food aid or development assistance or food stamps will be justified by some as a necessary, shared sacrifice to reduce our nation’s deficit, a decision made by morally responsible leaders.
But if Ruden is right that, as he neared Damascus, Paul learned that “what you do to the world, what you do to other people, is what you do to God,” don’t we need to stop on our own path toward Damascus and critically assess, not just Bashar Assad’s terribly evil actions, but also the ways our own political decisions tragically fail to love and serve God and God’s people?
Take Action: Review Acts 9 and consider (and perhaps preach on) how that chapter connects to current world events. Contact Congress and urge a Circle of Protection around programs that help those who are hungry at home and abroad.
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