Several thousand years ago, the people of Israel threw off a bondage of  Egyptian slavery.Then, in a 40-year odyssey toward freedom and their own identity, they wandered through desert areas until the people occupied  a new homeland where they would eventually set up a kingdom.

The establishment of that twelve-tribal homeland required some conquest of the native peoples. Jewish use of military might under the auspices of divine direction was, and is, a matter of perpetual dispute. Even today, the controversy intensifies, with each new generation, about whether or not the Jewish people are entitled to that narrow stretch of God’s earth between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Their perseverance to build a kingdom secured in righteousness and prosperity reached its golden age of fulfillment under David and Solomon.  But it was a flash in the historical pan. After Solomon’s death, their progress as an identifiable entity among the kingdoms of this world took on a downhill devolution, until finally the descendants of Israel were overrun by  Assyrians,  Babylonians,  Seleucids, and the Romans.

Their collective push to establish a worldly kingdom actually reflect a rather typical pattern in the development of people groups and their respective nations. But one unique element of the Israel contribution to world culture is their legacy of prophetical writings, which have since achieved universal distribution through a myriad of spiritual apropriations, most notably the Bible. The core of that prophetic heritage is a call to righteousness, or living rightly: morality, the Ten Commandments, etc.

About a millenium and a half after the Jewish diaspora, from out of the Arabian desert came Mohammed. He also issued a powerful summons toward righteousness;  he set forth five pillars of right-living upon which the practice of Islam, and its ordained proliferation,  would be founded.
I am not a Muslim, so I cannot claim an authentic understanding of their traditions and intentions, but it seems to me that Mohammed pointed out to the world that  Jewish and subsequent Christian efforts to establish a correct teaching about God–the One true God–had failed. A ubiquitous presence of idolotry and immorality among the people of Arabia and  beyond were evidence that men/women still needed a new infusion of religion, and he, Mohammed, was going to provide it. So he wrote the Q’uran.

But understand this: Mohammend was a conqueror. After his treatise of corrective religious dogma had begun, he went out and conquered multitudes of people, just to teach the world a lesson or two about rigteousness. The conquest of infidels that Mohammed and his immediate successors imposed on surrounding lands was immense. Islam established, through  unprecedented levels of conquest, a religious dominion far beyond anything that Moses, Joshua, David or Solomon ever dreamed of.

In the middle of all this religion-spewing history came a gentle  man from Galilee. His input to the spiritual heritage of mankind was not an advocay of conquest over peoples and nations. Whereas Jewish religion had been founded upon conquest of the Promised Land, and Islamic religion would later require conquest of the Infidels, Jesus’ only advocacy of conquest was a conquest of self.

He counseled people to “take up your cross and follow me.” By allowing the strong-armed conquerers of this world to crucify him, he wielded the ace of eternal life, and demonstrated its authority to trump this world’s  conquestive trick-taking.

He set in motion a narrative of redemptive power that has reined in the depraved hearts of men and women for almost two thousand years now. Jesus’ resurrection out-performed the legalistic limitations of Mosaic and Shariah Law. What better way to assure miraculous spreading of the news than rising from dead.

We don’t need to conquer the world; we don’t need to save it. That’s already been done, in the individual hearts of all persons who are willing to receive that deliverance.

Go tell it on the mountain. Go tell the Israelis. Go tell the Islamists: Forget about your conquests. Instead, let God conquer yo’ bad self so that you can rise to the challenge of eternal life, and therby overcome this goddamned world.

Glass half-Full

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