Monday, February 18, 2008

why does humanity go to war

Why does war break-out? What happens that causes one group of people to be willing to fight and kill another group? As I reflected on this question, I think that it comes down to one word: identity. I don't mean to simplify a complex issue like war, but it all seems to come back to identity.

Deep inside the human heart is the need to "identify" with a group. We start out this way gaining a sense of identity from our family, town, friends, culture and nation. All of these different forms of "groups" give us a sense of "who we are" and help us feel like we "belong." Humanity desperately needs external sources for understanding the "self." We are not sufficient enough to somehow "create" an identity out of nothing. Like a boat adrift at sea, we desperately need external markers and cues to tell us where to go and who to be.

This strong pull called "identity" is what keeps groups together. But when a group feels threatened by another group, those who "identify" with that group are ready to protect it. The reason is that if the group collapses or is taken over, then each member's identity is threatened. Group members go to war against other groups, not just because their group is in danger, but because, at some level, they feel their own identity in danger.

This is why city kids who grow up with out a "family identity" search for it in gangs. It's also why gang violence is so fierce. It's why we sing songs about America and pledge our allegiance to the flag. There is no way to deny group identity and its power.

We see African nations fractured by civil unrest and civil war because people's true group identity in Africa is tribal not national. National unity is a difficult task on a continent where people have extremely strong ties to their tribal roots.

The need for identity trumps most other needs that we have as humans. We need to know who we are, where we come from and to whom we belong. And while "identity" is the driving force behind war, it is only that way because we humans identify with the wrong things.

This is what is so beautiful about Jesus. This is the whole vision of the Kingdom of God. When we identify ourselves primarily with Christ, this issue of war changes. Finding our primary identity in Christ gives us all that we need. We learn who we truly are. We learn that we belong to the family of God. We gain an identity that fills us and completes us. But it doesn't end there.

Finding our primary identity in Christ also brings peace to the earth. When I identify myself with Christ, I chose to follow someone who loved his enemies. Rather than telling his "group," the church, to defend the group at all costs, Christ does just the opposite. When the Kingdom of God is attacked, Jesus calls on us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us and turn the other cheek.

So while “identity” is the driving force behind war, “identity in Christ” is the driving force behind peace.


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