This week, in wonderful news and an unintended demonstration of US Military capabilities and intent, the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier stationed as part of the Fifth Fleet at Bahrain, came to the rescue of an Iranian fishing vessel which had been overcome by Somalian pirates. The pirates had been using the Iranian fishing vessel as a mother ship to stage further piracy and for sea-borne support of their operations. The Stennis steamed in, rescued the 13 ship's crew, got the pirates, distributed food and water to fishermen and pirates alike and secured that patch of sea for safety's sake. Just days before, the USS Stennis had been harassed by Iranian navy in the Strait of Hormuz during Iran's war games, and telling them to stay OUT of the shipping lanes, which in fact is a de facto declaration of war
On the USS Stennis Facebook page, "We are ready hope that America sleeps well tonight knowing we've got the watch"--RDML Faller USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Strike Group Commander
"This was an opportunity to help hostages in need---had no bearing on nationality"--CDR Ellinger, Commanding Officer USS KIDD (DDG-100)
The NY Times wrote:
"ABOARD THE FISHING VESSEL AL MULAHI, in the Gulf of Oman — Senior Iranian military officials this week bluntly warned an American aircraft carrier that it would confront the “full force” of the Iranian military if it tried to re-enter the Persian Gulf. On Friday, Fazel Ur Rehman, a 28-year-old Iranian fisherman, had a warmer greeting for the carrier task force.“It is like you were sent by God,” said Mr. Rehman, huddled under a blanket in this vessel’s stern. “Every night we prayed for God to rescue us. And now you are here.” In a naval action that mixed diplomacy, drama and Middle Eastern politics, the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis broke up a high-seas pirate attack on a cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman, then sailors from an American destroyer boarded the pirates’ mother ship and freed 13 Iranian hostages who had been held captive there for more than a month. The rapidly unfolding events began Thursday morning when the pirates attacked a Bahamian-flagged ship, the motor vessel Sunshine, unaware that the Stennis was steaming less than eight miles away. It ended Friday with the tables fully turned. The captured Somali pirates, 15 in all, were brought aboard the U.S.S. Kidd, an American destroyer traveling with the Stennis. They were then shuttled by helicopter to the aircraft carrier and locked up in its brig."
I can't wait for the day when we are all truly brothers. When there are no enemies, and when THE enemy is banished forever. When we can all unite hands and hearts irrespective of nationality, praising the glory of God purely. Back in 1979 Iran in effect declared war on us when they captured people from a diplomatic ground, supposed to be internationally neutral and any peoples on it free from arrest, violating centuries old principles. According to diplomatic and military definitions, they are an enemy of the US.
In Luke 10:25 -28, we read, "And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
The lawyer was quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. But then the Lawyer went on, going from testing to justifying, "But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”"
Jesus answered with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritans, people who lived in adjacent Samaria, were hated by Jews. This hatred was longstanding. The Samaritans were descendants of the tribe of Ephraim and Manasseh and was part of the northern kingdom of Israel. The southern kingdom of Judah was to the south. The northern Samaritans were conquered by Assyria, most carried off, those who remained intermarried with the pagans and also began worshiping the foreigners' idols. The southern Jews hated the northerners for not being full blooded Jews and for opposing their own repatriation when Judah was later carried off and then years later tried to re-settle the lands. The Jewish saying, "With whom you have no dealings" refers to the Samaritans. In other words, they are driven to hatred by ethnic and racial barriers. Jesus was saying that it isn't the unknown enemy whose individual face you don't see who is easy to hate, but the ones near to us who look and act different. But they all are our neighbors.
Acts of kindness, doing good to those who curse you, giving the enemy the very shirt from your back, is a demonstration of God through us.
"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," (Matthew 5:44)
"If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:" (Proverbs 25:21)
I'm not naive. I know that war exists and we are asked by the government or by self-defense to protect our land or property or persons from invading enemies who want to do us harm. But the remarks after the incident was made public, that the Navy is there to protect one and all irrespective of race of ethnicity, the Iranian government's rare extension of thanks were all remarked upon. Imagine how much MORE it would be remarked upon if we were to show the love of our neighbor or our enemy, if it was at the behest of God and not the US Government. It is an unusual thing to love an enemy, to give him food and water, to help him in a moment of need. People notice.
In the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked, "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Jesus said to go and do likewise.
Jesus said to love our neighbor, and to love those who persecute us. I know it's easy to generalize about the bad actors in the last days and the upcoming Tribulation. "They flew planes into OUR buildings!" They kill fellow Christians!" But when the Navy sailors got on board the Iranian fishing vessel, we were all brothers. Not necessarily brothers in Christ, but neighbors. We saw the faces of the young fishermen, we hugged, we rejoiced in release from harm's way. We restored husbands to families and sons to mothers. In looking at the wounded man on the road to Samaria, the Samaritan saw simply an individual person in need, not a faceless, hated enemy. He gave him water to drink and food and brought him to safety.
When the crafty Lawyer said "Who is my neighbor?" seeking an excuse not to love someone, Jesus, in effect, turned it around and asked, "Who is your enemy?" Who can we legitimately identify as a person NOT to love?