Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Modern Day Parable

The four CH-47 helicopters arrived through smoke and fire at the embassy in the capital of this foreign nation. Their mission? To rescue people trapped inside by insurgents’ gunfire and grenades. There were 87 people in the embassy, hanging on for dear life, hoping their own military would arrive before the nationals broke in.

The dissidents had already been pushed back by several AH-64 Apaches that flew by minutes earlier. Now troops were descending from the helicopters to the rooftop of the embassy. They entered the building, hurrying to the rooms where people were gathered.

Fifteen minutes later, the helicopters were lifting their quarry away to flight altitude. Twenty-five minutes later, the nationals broke into the embassy and torched it to the ground. Forty minutes after that, the helicopters landed at their military base nearby, celebrating what they considered a successful mission.

In the next hour, the nations around the globe grumbled at this superpower’s actions. In fact, the UN Secretary-General issued a statement denouncing the mission.

Nobody was condoning the terrorists who attacked the embassy, however. What the world found appalling was that the special forces had rescued less than half of the people in the building. Why, with four Chinooks, each with more than a 30 passenger capacity, did they only rescue 42 people? The nationals had been temporarily pushed back, so the soldiers had plenty of time to save all who were trapped inside.

This was no great rescue. The military had no right to celebrate. Forty-five people had died needlessly that day. And this superpower could have saved them without much effort. But for some strange reason it didn’t.

What is the purpose of this story?

For some, this parable could have begun with the words, “The kingdom of heaven is like...”

According to some traditions, God, the superpower of the universe, is said to demonstrate his glorious mercy by choosing a select group of people to be saved, while leaving countless billions to face the judgment of the lake of fire. Additionally, no one is able to respond favorably to God's grace without him giving them the gift of faith and repentance.

If this view is an accurate portrayal of scripture, then (to me, anyway) it begs a very important question. Why doesn't the infinitely powerful and the infinitely merciful God change everyone's heart and save everyone?

Finally, some theological views might add another element to this parable: that the superpower planned the assault on its own embassy, in order to show how great of a superpower it really was.

Hmmm... I just can't see how this view demonstrates a loving, merciful and just God as the Bible declares him to be.

"...but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight," declares the LORD (Jer 9:24).

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