A few thoughts about the next post, “The Gift of Peace.”
The poem is a tribute to the U.S. Air Force officers and enlisted crew in the field on Christmas day 2023. Many launch crews, security staff, maintainers, facility managers, and cooks were on duty December 25.
Actually those teams are on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Currently, each team is in the field for a week at a time.
This has been ongoing at Minuteman bases since the early 1960s. Teams have been in the field continuously for 60 years defending the United States.
You may think it odd to see a post thanking members of USAF that have kept nuclear tipped ICBMs on alert around the clock for half a century showing up a couple days after I have four posts celebrating the birth of the Christ child.
There is no contradiction at all between celebrating Christ’s arrival in the world to then be killed in order to pay the penalty for sin at the same time as I celebrate those who stand alert with nuclear weapons to defend my homeland and the Western world.
A moments explanation of doctrine will show why there is no contradiction.
Left kingdom and right kingdom
In my faith tradition, which is the Lutheran branch of Protestantism, we emphasize the doctrine of two kingdoms. There is a left kingdom and a right kingdom. This distinction is very clear in Scripture; my faith tradition emphasizes this not just because it is the clear teaching of Scripture and is therefore true, but also because it explains so much about the world.
The right kingdom is the “kingdom of grace” wherein God uses the means of grace to save sinners. This world is where the church resides. This is the realm in which the Scriptures define and direct our behavior and attitudes. Here is where we worship God in our home churches, conducting our worship as we each see fit.
The left kingdom is the “kingdom of power.” This is where government, chief executives, legislatures, courts, laws, bureaucracies, regulators, police, and the military operate. This is the realm of laws and rules and regulations.
Make no mistake – God is in charge of both the left kingdom and the right kingdom. Yet each kingdom has its own rules and its own requirements. Each has its own way of conducting itself.
A few illustrations show the difference.
A child misbehaves, seriously disobeying parental instructions. The child will be forgiven by the parents, who will continue to love and care for the child. That is the right kingdom. Simultaneously, the parent will impose appropriate punishment on the child because there are consequences to disobedience. This is the left kingdom.
A person may be seriously harmed by a criminal and testify against that person in court and later request the judge to impose the maximum allowable penalty. That is the left kingdom. Simultaneously, the person can sincerely forgive the person for the harm done. This is the right kingdom.
Likewise, a faith-filled, Bible-believing Christian can in clear conscience serve as a civil judge imposing prison sentences on individuals convicted of a crime.
There is no inconsistency in a parent forgiving a child and simultaneously dispensing appropriate punishment. There is no inconsistency in a citizen forgiving someone and simultaneously testifying against the person in court.
By now, you can see where I am going.
It is perfectly consistent to celebrate with great joy the birth of the Christ child knowing the purpose of his birth was to go to the cross and later be brutally executed to pay the penalty for your and my sin and also give thanks for those who stand guard over our country, protecting us with a severe credible threat to impose horrible punishment on anyone who were foolish enough to attack us.
Those people who stand prepared to launch a nuclear response in the left kingdom provide temporal peace. The birth and death of Christ in the right kingdom provides eternal peace.
The left kingdom and right kingdom exist simultaneously.
One final thought:
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.