Thursday, July 19, 2012

Remember the Alamo!

Traveling to San Antonio a week ago I knew I had to write some kind of post about the Alamo. I was thinking something along the lines of demolishing strongholds or the Lord being our fortress. The problem is that battle was lost, everybody died, and the Alamo was not held.

(As an aside, isn't interesting how this is remembered by history? A monumental strategic gaffe which led to the death of hundreds is revered in history and William Travis is hailed as a hero while the Battle of Little Big Horn was a similar loss (though larger in scale) and George Armstrong Custer is remembered as a bumbling fool. It is a fine line between foolishness and bravery, I suppose- sounds like a future post to me, but I digress.)

I guess I could write from the perspective of Santa Anna, but as I am frequently reminded I better not "mess with Texas." So visiting the site and scouring through the history I was stumped with how to present a spiritual lesson from this historic battle. Then I found this little nugget at the end of one of Travis' many letters requesting reinforcements:

"P.S. The Lord is on our side. when the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of beeves."

Less than two weeks later every single man fighting alongside Travis would be killed, and ironically Travis was one of the first to fall. But here he is proclaiming confidently, "the Lord is on our side."

The skeptic could look at that and respond, "see, there is no God!" The fundamentalist might respond, "there must've been unrepentant sin in their camp." Liberal Christians may point a finger at the Texians as oppressors that the Lord was ensuring would get their due, and The Christian Conservative is left speechless while clinging tightly to the flag.

There's a danger in confusing God's blessing with God's favor. Were they blessed to find extra food? Certainly. But by the outcome of the battle it would be hard to argue that they enjoyed any special favor from God. But we don't learn from history (or the Bible for that matter). Every small victory, every seeming blessing is touted as "God is on our side!" From sports, to international affairs, to even the mundane occurrences of our daily routine we look for any little blessing (or kiss on the forehead as my wife likes to call them) to comfort us that God is with us.

Tony Campolo recounts in his book Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God, how he was speaking for a prison ministry to a group of hardened lifers and a young woman leading worship shared that on her way there a rock nicked her windshield. This made her very upset, so she stopped, got out of the car and prayed that God would remove the nick from her windshield. And God answered her prayer. Now just imagine being incarcerated for something like murder and hearing this story. Would this encourage you or patronize you? Why would God act in such a trivial matter while you were suffering in prison begging for forgiveness? Would you want to be redeemed by a savior who fixes windshields while children are starving around the world?

How often do we hear in sports that God was with the victors? Does that inherently mean that he wasn't with the losers? Does God love one team, one quarterback, one player more than all the others? And does one team defeating another advance the Kingdom so much that it is worth God intervening to ensure victory?

And look around this political season. We have been spoiled for so long in America with wealth and prosperity, that it was a given for most that we are a "Christian nation" or that the United States holds some special favor with God. Yet now we are reaping what we've sown by living in excess as we look for someone to blame. Where is God's favor now? The same place it has always been.

Jesus says in his Sermon on the Mount that "[God] causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45) In context, Jesus is talking about loving your enemies, but he had just spoken about blessings and sin.

"The Lord is with us." Sure, but he is also with your enemy, your coworker, your neighbor. He may be actively blessing one with good fortune while refining another's faith through trial. God may be sparing a friend from cancer while a family member is suffering and about to die.

I've learned to be careful trying to read too much into things to find God's motives. What is important is not whose side God is on, but whether I am on God's side surrendering to his sovereignty. In hindsight it is sometimes easy to see blessings that are not obvious now. And what may look like blessings now may not be after all. God will do as he chooses. And the rain will fall on all of us.

Remember the Alamo.

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