Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How Would God Approach International Diplomacy?

When I think of God approaching international diplomacy, I trip over the assumption that God has some nationality. God is interested in humanity, not jingoism, patriotism, or xenophobia. Jesus said, “For God so love the world…” (John 3:16). God seeks to reconcile all things to God-self (Colossians 1:20). In Luke 5:32, Jesus proclaims a call to the unrighteous, which would imply those who are not already in the religious in-crowd. The biblical examples of God’s care for everyone go on and on.


Some years ago, imagining what-would-Jesus-do (WWJD) was an inspirational fad. People would consider what Jesus would do in various situations. Thus, this reflection is an attempt to apply WWJD to current events. Currently, the U.S. President is traveling in the Middle East. I thought about his interest in brokering peace and the almost continuous conflict in the region. From Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BCE) to centuries of Roman occupation to Islamic conversion after the Battle of Yarmouk (636 CE), the region has long-suffered conflict.

Instead of asking about God’s approach to international diplomacy  the twenty-first-century question could be reframed as, “How does God approach humanity?” The whole notion of foreign and domestic people is beyond the New Testament. A foreign invader occupied the land of the major biblical characters, like Paul, Peter, James, Mary, et al. They saw themselves as part of a community, in the world, but not of it. They were resident aliens (1 Peter 2:11).

Does that mean patriotism is not biblical? No. But, it might be a stretch to argue for a biblical basis for patriotism. For example, I like ice cream. Is ice cream biblical? The Bible does not address it. We neither say that ice cream is biblical nor that ice cream is not biblical. It is what I do with ice cream that can connect with a biblical ethic and an orthodox Christian worldview. If I choose not to help my brothers and sisters in need, but to buy ice cream, my life might not reflect what Jesus would do. However, if I enjoy ice cream in moderation and try to help my sisters and brothers in need, then I might be closer to following Jesus.

Likewise, when we consider international diplomacy if we adopt a position that puts one nation’s interests ahead of another one, at the other one’s expense, this policy might not be biblical. Let us consider a fictitious trade policy.
Suppose country A adopts a tariff on widgets.
Its widget industry is healthy, but country A wants the industry to grow.
This tariff adversely affects country B’s major widget manufacturer.
It has to close, lay off its workers, and the people begin to starve.

Country A’s policy, in this example, was unnecessary. They already had a healthy industry. They just wanted it to grow. The motivation appears to be greed. In this example, limited as it is, we can see how one policy can be unbiblical.

How would God approach international diplomacy  God would show concern for all people, including the populations on all sides of national boundaries. We should not forget that God did not set the boundaries, but people did. Compassion and mercy are the hallmarks of God’s worldview.

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