“Why do the nations rage?”
“Why do the nations rage?” This question in Psalm 2:1 is topical today. The news is full of the G20 summit and the diplomacy between the world’s most powerful nations. Amongst the highlights are the meeting of Presidents Trump and Putin and the meeting to discuss North Korea between the US President and the British Prime Minister.
Some commentators argue this is the most dangerous time since the end of the Cold War. The USA and Russia are in effect fighting a ‘proxy war’ in Syria. The tension within Israel and Palestine could explode at any time. There are many less well known conflicts. But it seems the most dangerous confrontation is between North Korea and the USA. The North Korean leadership has been showing off some military power for a long time and the current US President has abandoned the previous policy of ignoring the threats, treating them as almost laughable, while looking for influence through economic means. Instead President Trump has been making threats of his own expecting North Korea to back down.
It is ironic that the USA, a nation that still has a large proportion of people who are actively involved in Christian churches, should try to threaten an enemy into submission. Meanwhile the officially atheist Republic of China is taking a much quieter approach, on the theory that the long term interests of China are better served by allowing moves to a more open economy to undermine the leadership of North Korea, its troublesome neighbour.
What would international relations look like if leaders abandoned the threats and followed the example of Jesus? Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who are hungry for right relatedness, the merciful, the pure in heart and the peacemakers. Such people do not fit the mould of power politics, but Jesus also said “blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake!”
It is 20 years since Britain transferred control of its colony Hong King to the Chinese government. The anniversary and the protests of peaceful dissidents have also been in the news. At the time of the handover, while the world’s eyes focused on the dignitaries and the pomp and circumstance of the ceremonies, a thousand Christians gathered in a very different way. The senior pastor of the largest Anglican church in Hong Kong wept as he asked forgiveness for “our injustice, our pride and our isolation.” The Chairman of the South Kowloon Pastors’ Prayer Fellowship, Jonathan Chan, led the Chinese Christians present in expressing forgiveness and then asked forgiveness for the racial pride on their part. Many of the leaders washed each others’ feet in a symbol of humility and service that made barriers came down in the hearts and minds of many. (See https://billions.omf.org/looking-back-1997-return-reconciliation/)
That is only one example. Some might cynically say it might have been moving but little more than symbolic. But across the world, in many unsung and little known ways, Christians are seeking to put into practice what Jesus taught and modelled, believing that this world and the current raging of the nations is not the end, not the whole story. Isaiah 11 contains stirring visions of the time when enemies will live peacefully together “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
Until that time, as the Mennonite theologian JH Yoder put it, “The church is called to be now what the world is called to be ultimately.” We fulfil that calling when we choose to follow and obey Jesus in living peacefully, as individuals and households, congregations and the whole people of God. We fulfil that calling when we pray for peace and the many things implied in “Your Kingdom come.”
As the All Nations Prayer Hub is now open more often, moving towards 24/7 prayer, we are finding the Spirit leading us into praying more for the nations. As we pray we find God gives some insight into “why do the nations rage?” – enough insight to put aside fear and to be able to pray for reconciliation and the spread of the whole gospel of peace. We do not yet see the whole picture but we are praying to the King who does and who has ultimate power!