The traffic light just in front of him turned yellow so the driver did the right thing and stopped his vehicle, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection. The tailgating woman behind him was furious – she honked her horn and screamed in frustration, for not only had she missed a chance to get through the intersection, but hitting the brakes also caused her to drop her lip stick tube. As the lady continued to rant, suddenly she heard a tap on the side window and looking out saw the face of a very serious-looking police officer. The patrolman ordered the woman to exit the vehicle with her hands up. The officer then took the lady to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours a policeman opened the door to her cell and escorted the gal back to the booking desk where the patrolman who had arrested her was waiting with her personal effects. The officer said, “I’m very sorry for the mistake. You see, when I pulled up behind your car, while you were blowing your horn and blowing your top, I noticed the – Honk If You Love Jesus! and What Would Jesus Do? stickers on the bumper , so naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car.”
The question I want to deal with in this post-Christian world we are living in is not, “What Would Jesus Do?” but “What Would Jeremiah Do?” Let me explain.
In 597 B.C., the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, after a long military siege, sacked Jerusalem. He then claimed the spoils of war, not only the riches of the city and temple, but also thousands of Israelites, including the king and his court. Many of these Jews were settled on the tributaries of the Euphrates which inspired the words of Psalm 137:1 – By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. And the Israelites had good reason to weep. In addition to the shame of defeat, few of them had any direct experience of living in a foreign culture. The language and custom of their captors were alien to them, particularly the abhorrent practice of idolatry with all of its accompanying sexual immorality. Under these circumstances, the Israelites had to decide on how to deal with their new reality. Should it be integration, becoming fully like their captors? Should it be isolation, totally separating from their captors? Or should it be insurrection, continually fighting their captors every step of the way? The question was important enough to even attract the attention of God himself. Speaking through his prophet Jeremiah, who remained back in Jerusalem, the Lord commanded the captives to try and – make peace, not war – with their present situation. The order is found in Jeremiah 29:4-7,
Thus saith the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
God is telling His people two things. One, inside their community they are to go on with life as usual – build homes, plant crops, raise children, practice faith etc. And two, outside their community they are to peaceably seek the allowance to continue to so do. This later peace-seeking instruction is also found in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul writes in I Timothy 2:1-3,
I exhort first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
Now I said all that to say this. When the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and made it the law across the land, Christians had to decide on how to deal with this new reality – do we make war or do we seek peace? In Kentucky, the county clerk who issues marriage licenses there, decided to make war. She refused, as a faith matter, to grant same-sex couples marriage licenses. The result? The lady was put in jail for violating the oath of office she took to uphold the law. In North Carolina, a county clerk decided to seek peace. He approached his elected representative as to if the state might bring in legislation excusing clerks like him, as a faith matter, from granting same-sex couples marriage licenses. The law was passed. And the result? The man is at home with his family. Two county clerks, with the same moral convictions re same-sex marriage, but coming at the issue from two opposite directions.
The bottom line? Jeremiah was the most fiery of all of the prophets, the one who “cried aloud and spared not.” But that was when the Jews were the majority in Israel, not the minority in Babylon. Now he’d wisely sing a new song, one written by God – seek peace, not war.