Tag Archives: china

If I Had a Hammer


seegerLast week in China, Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to 4 years in prison for “disturbing the peace.” His crime was “organizing a grass-roots New Citizens Movement, which sought to give voice to public discontent over official corruption and social injustice” (NY TIMES, 1-26-14). In his closing statement at trial, on January 22, 2014, Zhiyong spoke of the core values of the movement: “freedom, justice and love.”

It is hard to believe, but it wasn’t that long ago that our own country struggled to find the line between freedom of speech and public disorder /disintegration of societal rules. For many baby-boomers, one figure stands out as a spokesman for the same ideals of which Zhiyong spoke. Sometimes in the shadows, other times at the forefront, and quite often writing or singing the soundtrack, Pete Seeger invited audiences to sing along to the theme of Justice, Love, and Freedom.

By now, you have probably heard of the passing of Pete Seeger at age 94. He will be remembered for songs such as, “We Shall Overcome,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” But Seeger’s, “If I Had A Hammer” probably encapsulates his message the best.

The closing verses promise to hammer, ring, and sing Justice, Freedom, and Love between my brothers and my sisters and all over this land.

Justice, Freedom, and Love are desirable qualities. But they did not originate with Seeger. Songs like Seeger’s, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” come straight from the pages of scripture. So do the very concepts of Justice, Freedom, and Love. We would not know justice, freedom, or love if not for God’s great wisdom, grace, and mercy.

The prophet Amos said, “Seek good and not evil, that you may live; …Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate” (Amos 5:14-15)! May we continue to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God (Micah 6:8). May we continue to pray that the justice, freedom, and love of God will continue to make progress in China, in America, and in the hearts of all people everywhere.

Perfect Asylum

In a bizarre, live version of “where’s Waldo,” the world has been following Edward Snowden’s travel itinerary with great interest. If you aren’t aware, Snowden was a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He leaked information about top-secret surveillance programs to the press, and was charged with espionage and theft. Snowden sees himself as a hero, but the government sees him as a fugitive and wants him brought to justice. The problem, though, is getting to him before he gets to one of the countries that has offered him asylum.

Asylum is an old idea. In fact, in the bible (Joshua 20), there were 6 “cities of refuge” that carried with them the idea of asylum. In those days, if someone had murdered another person, their blood relative might become an “avenger of blood” and try to bring that person to justice. However, if the death was accidental, and the fugitive could make it to one of the cities of refuge, they could call upon the leaders of that city to help them.

Of course, a lot has changed in the world of refuge. The real purpose of asylum in scripture was to make sure the accused had a fair trial. In the bible, the one who was fleeing had to stand trial and receive asylum (if innocent) or punishment (if guilty). Today, asylum seems to be a way to avoid justice. Today’s “cities of refuge” seem to be China, Russia, and now Venezuela.

Nevertheless, there is only one true place of refuge.  I thank God that, in Christ, we have a refuge far greater than a city or country! If you want to have your sins washed clean, there is only one way to do so – become a child of God and live in His refuge. It is unclear how history will judge Snowden, but each of us will stand before the judgment seat in order to be judged for the deeds we have done in the flesh. Those who are in Christ will have protection because we are covered by one in whom there was no sin. Perfect asylum!