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As a subscriber to The Wired Word, you will receive a weekly email such as this:

Dear Teacher,

In a move that seemed unlikely only a year ago, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has announced that his country has stopped nuclear testing and missile launches, although it continues to hold its nuclear arsenal. If plans stay on track, a summit between North and South Korea will have occurred by the time you use this lesson. A summit between Kim and President Trump is tentatively scheduled for next month. While the North Korean announcement stops short of denuclearization, this seems like an opening where peacemaking might proceed, reducing international tensions.

While few of us have the opportunity to influence peace talks on the international level, the news does give us an opportunity to think about the place of peacemaking for followers of Jesus. So that will be the topic of this installment of The Wired Word.

If you'd prefer a different topic, look at our second lesson, which begins with news of a Navy-trained pilot who successfully landed a twin-engine Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 after one engine caught on fire and failed, sending shrapnel into the wing and body of the plane. One woman, who was partially sucked from the aircraft before other passengers pulled her back inside, died from her injuries.

In the harrowing six minutes following the initial impact until the jet touched down on the runway, the pilot showed remarkable calmness under extremely difficult conditions. We learned that she is motivated by her strong Christian faith to pursue excellence in her life and work. Her example gives us the opportunity to consider how our faith can prepare us for crises and also guide us in our everyday, ordinary lives.

You are welcome to email the student lesson to your class members to use for your class time. To do so, click here.

May God bless you as you teach the scriptures this week.

The Editorial Team of The Wired Word

North Korean Leader Halts Nuclear Tests and Missile Launches

The Wired Word for the Week of April 29, 2018

In the News

Last week, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un announced, "From 21 April, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles."

This appears to be good news, which is exactly what President Donald Trump has labeled it. And South Korea has called the surprise declaration meaningful progress.

Most observers also consider the fact that Pyongyang made the announcement before upcoming summits with both South Korea and the United States as a positive development. The summit with South Korea is set to take place this week. There are hopes that the summit may lead to an end to the state of war that has existed between the two countries for over 65 years. The meeting between Leader Kim and President Trump is tentatively scheduled for May.

The stoppage of the tests and launches, however, does not signal any willingness on North Korea's part to denuclearize. Kim has said that further tests are no longer needed since his country has completed its drive to have nuclear weapons. Last year, North Korea tested two long-range missile prototypes capable of hitting the continental United States with a nuclear warhead, and it also exploded its first hydrogen bomb.

Explaining the North's unwillingness to give up its nuclear weapons, an article in The Atlantic said, "From Kim's point of view, nuclear weapons constitute his only guarantee of survival."

As background, the article added:

North Korea saw what happened to Saddam Hussein, whose attempts to develop nuclear weapons were cut short by an Israeli air-force raid in 1981. It saw how things went in 1994, when Ukraine surrendered its Soviet-era nuclear heritage in exchange for "guarantees" from the United States, Britain, and Russia, to respect its territorial integrity. Above all, North Korea remembers the sorry fate of Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya, the only dictator in history who agreed to surrender his half-baked nuclear program in exchange for economic benefits. This is why the Kim regime has spent 60-odd years building up its nuclear program.

Kim has said that ending the missile tests is aimed at pursuing economic growth in his country and developing a socialist economy. He also wants sanctions against his country removed.

Many observers believe that President Trump's promise to use armed force if the North Koreans did not agree to abandon their nuclear program was part of what changed Kim's position. The Atlantic explained, "For decades, North Korea has been certain that the United States would never strike first: Seoul, the capital of South Korea, the closest U.S. ally in the region, lies within range of North Korean heavy artillery. If the North retaliated, hundreds of guns would transform downtown Seoul into an inferno. Such a crisis would be followed by a war of immense destruction."

But, said The Atlantic, "Trump has altered this calculus. While his 'fire and fury' threat may have been a bluff, he has persuaded the Kim regime that it is dealing with a president who is willing to risk Seoul (along with the U.S.-South Korea alliance). A U.S. military strike, Kim has come to see, is no longer an impossibility."

Apparently, the U.S. president's threats also helped persuade China to support the toughest sanctions that country ever imposed on Pyongyang, making it almost impossible for North Korea to sell anything internationally.

In North Korea, sanctions have increased the price of gas, rice and other commodities, reduced oil imports by one-third, and banned more than 90 percent of the North's exports to United Nations countries.

Even if Kim doesn't denuclearize, it is to be hoped that his ending the testing and ceasing to bristle at the world will reduce the threat from North Korea and contribute to peaceable relations on the Korean peninsula, in the region and with the rest of the world.

More on this story can be found at these links:

North Korea Missile and Nuclear Test Halt Hailed. BBC
Holstering the K-Pop, South Korea Silences Propaganda at the DMZ. The New York Times
4 Key Questions Before the Trump-Kim Meeting. The Daily Signal
How North Korea Learned to Live With 'Fire and Fury.' The Atlantic

Applying the News Story

One of the problems with drawing a lesson for ourselves from peacemaking moves on the international level is that generally speaking, other than praying for the outcome, there is almost nothing individual private citizens can do to contribute to those efforts. We feel powerless to shape world events.

Yet we who are followers of the Prince of Peace cannot let the difficulty of peacemaking prevent us from applying the ways of peace in the realms we can affect, including our own families, our own neighborhood, our own church, and people with whom we interact each day.

The Big Questions

1. We tend to think of peacemaking as a global task, but where does the call to make peace apply to ordinary citizens? Are there special applications of the call for Christians? If so, what are they? Since nations have different purposes than individuals, how might their approaches to peace differ?

2. What is the goal of peacemaking? Why is peacemaking a Christian value? What makes reconciliation a matter of theological and Christian concern?

3. Compromise is sometimes a tool of peacemaking, but when does it cease to be useful in making peace?

4. Is it a moral obligation for Christians to take the initiative in peacemaking? Why or why not? How far should you as a Christian go to keep peace with a rude, inconsiderate or obnoxious neighbor? What if the neighbor refuses your attempts at peaceful coexistence?

5. On the international level, armed force is sometimes viewed as a component of peacemaking. Do you agree that it can be? If so, how do we determine when it needs to be used for peacemaking? Are mercy and sacrifice more powerful than armed force in terms of making peace?

Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
Here are some Bible verses to guide your discussion:

Joshua 22:33
The report pleased the Israelites; and the Israelites blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them, to destroy the land where the Reubenites and the Gadites were settled. (For context, read 22:10-34.)

This verse is a summary statement about the happy conclusion of a potential battle between two groups of Israelites (Perhaps not unlike the two nations of Korea in the current situation). Instead of a fight, a compromise was reached, and at that point, the narrator tells us that the Israelites "blessed God."

We have some understanding of what it means for God to bless us, but what does it mean for us to bless God? Sometimes we read that as simply another way of saying "Thanks, God," or "Praise God," but something deeper is going on. The Hebrew word translated by "bless" has the original meaning of to "bend the knee" or to "kneel." Blessing is characteristically something that assures well-being and re-energizes us. But some of our actions, such as behaving with hostility toward others, in effect "diminish" the God who calls us to love one another.

Thus, when we engage in peacemaking and reconciliation, we are directing our energy to God and raising his stature in the eyes of those who worship him. We are, in effect, blessing God.

Question: What behaviors of yours do you see as "blessing God"? Is it possible that a reduction in hostilities between the two Koreas will "bless" God? Why or why not?

2 Corinthians 5:18-19
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. (For context, read 5:11-21.)

These two verses are the answer to the question we asked in Big Question #2 above about why reconciliation is a theological and Christian issue. It is theological because God (the "theo" part of theological) practices it himself. He reconciles us to himself through Christ. Then God assigns us as his agents in reconciling the world to him, as we proclaim what he has done for us and for all people. The Christian message and ministry of reconciliation has been entrusted to us who follow Jesus.

Questions: In what ministry of reconciliation have you participated? What has to be in place for reconciliation between individuals to endure and produce the fruit of peace?

Genesis 13:8
Then Abram said to Lot, "Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred." (For context, read 13:1-18.)

This is Abram's statement to his nephew Lot when the land they were sharing could no longer support the herds and flocks of both men. What Abram offers goes way beyond compromise. He is actually willing to sacrifice what appears to be best for him so that there will be no conflict between the two of them.

Lot agrees to Abram's solution and selects the best land for himself. It later turns out that God blesses Abram even on the poorer land, but Abram didn't know that that would happen at the time he was making the offer. Thus, Abram had to be prepared to come out of the arrangement as the loser.

Questions: When have you had to accept loss to keep the peace with someone? In the long view, was it good that you did so?

Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (For context, read 5:1-12.)

This statement from Jesus is a definitive declaration about the need for his followers to actively work at making peace, for it is by doing so that they "will be called children of God."

Peacemaking does not connote a passive attitude -- it is not simply conflict avoidance -- but positive actions for reconciliation. From this verse, it seems clear that peacemaking is not optional for Christians but is as much an expected activity as is praying.

Questions: The Greek word translated here as "blessed" means "fortunate," "happy," "well-off" or "in a privileged situation." Why do you think Jesus attached a word with such meanings to the activity of making peace?

Esther 4:14
Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this. (For context, read 4:1-17.)

This is a statement made by Mordecai, a member of the Jewish diaspora community in the Persian Empire, to his relative, Esther, who was married to the Persian king.

Mordecai had learned of a plot against the Jews by a member of the king's court, and he spoke the above to persuade Esther to intervene on her people's behalf with the king -- a risky thing for a woman in that day to do.

Mordecai referred to Esther's "royal dignity"-- her placement as queen -- as perhaps having happened primarily to put her in a position to save her people's lives. (The book of Esther doesn't mention God, but it seems that Mordecai's meaning is that God placed Esther in that spot "for just such a time as this.")

The king not only commanded that the chief plotters, Haman and his ten sons, be hanged. He also gave the Jews permission to defend themselves against those who would have exterminated them, resulting in the deaths of over 75,000 of their persecutors.

Do you know the term "vessel theology"? It's used by some Christians to mean that God has chosen an unlikely person to be a vessel to accomplish God's purposes. Besides Esther, another biblical example is Persian King Cyrus, who freed the Jews from captivity and sent them home to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-4; Isaiah 45:1-4).

Questions: Given that our country is strongly divided over Mr. Trump as president, is it possible that despite whatever strengths and weaknesses he may have, his mode of operation is the only one that would work with the belligerent Kim Jong-un, especially since decades of efforts by more conventional America leaders have not succeeded?

Does the idea of vessel theology make sense to you in this case? What are the objections to vessel theology? Do you view all elected or appointed officials as potentially vessels of God's will, or only certain authorities? If only some, but not all, fit that category, what in your view qualifies a person to be considered as a vessel of God?

For Further Discussion

1. Assuming that North Korea will not give up its nuclear arsenal, but will discontinue its testing and missile launches, is it still worth normalizing relations with that country and lifting the sanctions? Why or why not?

2. Have you ever been in a conflict with another person where that person made a serious attempt to make peace with you? If so, how did you respond? How do you wish you had responded? What was the outcome?

3. In game theory, one of the most successful strategies is called "tit for tat," often modified to a "tit for tat with occasional forgiveness." In this strategy, a person responds in like manner to the other person. If the other is cooperative or beneficial, then one responds in a cooperative or beneficial manner. If the other person is malicious or perverse, then one responds similarly. Since this strategy is very clear -- both sides know what the response will be -- it tends to foster cooperation. To prevent a death spiral, occasionally a perverse action is responded to in a beneficial manner. This gives the other the opportunity to do the same, preventing a death spiral. Do these strategies compare to how God would have us act in our relationships with others? Does the status of relationship (e.g., peer-peer, parent-child, etc.) matter?

Responding to the News

Pray for the efforts to reduce nuclear threat from North Korea.

Wherever possible, act as a peacemaker in your dealings with others.

Prayer

O God, please grant wisdom, courage, perseverance, energy, faith and a desire to make peace to all those in a position to do so. Especially help those involved in the two summits to find a peaceable and verifiable way forward. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2018 Communication Resources

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Student Lesson

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Your subscription will also provide you with a student version of the weekly lesson, which you can freely edit prior to sending it out to your class members. Here's a sample of what your students will get:

Dear Class Member,

In a move that seemed unlikely only a year ago, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has announced that his country has stopped nuclear testing and missile launches, although it continues to hold its nuclear arsenal. If plans stay on track, a summit between North and South Korea will have occurred by the time you use this lesson. A summit between Kim and President Trump is tentatively scheduled for next month. While the North Korean announcement stops short of denuclearization, this seems like an opening where peacemaking might proceed, reducing international tensions.

While few of us have the opportunity to influence peace talks on the international level, the news does give us an opportunity to think about the place of peacemaking for followers of Jesus. So that will be the topic of this installment of The Wired Word.

If you wish to start thinking about our topic in advance, below is some introductory material.

The Wired Word invites us to contribute news story suggestions for upcoming lessons. If you have a story you'd like to suggest, send it to us at service@thewiredword.com.

North Korean Leader Halts Nuclear Tests and Missile Launches

The Wired Word the Week of April 29, 2018

In the News

Last week, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un announced, "From 21 April, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles."

This appears to be good news, which is exactly what President Donald Trump has labeled it. And South Korea has called the surprise declaration meaningful progress.

Most observers also consider the fact that Pyongyang made the announcement before upcoming summits with both South Korea and the United States as a positive development. The summit with South Korea is set to take place this week. There are hopes that the summit may lead to an end to the state of war that has existed between the two countries for over 65 years. The meeting between Leader Kim and President Trump is tentatively scheduled for May.

The stoppage of the tests and launches, however, does not signal any willingness on North Korea's part to denuclearize. Kim has said that further tests are no longer needed since his country has completed its drive to have nuclear weapons. Last year, North Korea tested two long-range missile prototypes capable of hitting the continental United States with a nuclear warhead, and it also exploded its first hydrogen bomb.

Explaining the North's unwillingness to give up its nuclear weapons, an article in The Atlantic said, "From Kim's point of view, nuclear weapons constitute his only guarantee of survival."

As background, the article added:

North Korea saw what happened to Saddam Hussein, whose attempts to develop nuclear weapons were cut short by an Israeli air-force raid in 1981. It saw how things went in 1994, when Ukraine surrendered its Soviet-era nuclear heritage in exchange for "guarantees" from the United States, Britain, and Russia, to respect its territorial integrity. Above all, North Korea remembers the sorry fate of Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya, the only dictator in history who agreed to surrender his half-baked nuclear program in exchange for economic benefits. This is why the Kim regime has spent 60-odd years building up its nuclear program.

Kim has said that ending the missile tests is aimed at pursuing economic growth in his country and developing a socialist economy. He also wants sanctions against his country removed.

Many observers believe that President Trump's promise to use armed force if the North Koreans did not agree to abandon their nuclear program was part of what changed Kim's position. The Atlantic explained, "For decades, North Korea has been certain that the United States would never strike first: Seoul, the capital of South Korea, the closest U.S. ally in the region, lies within range of North Korean heavy artillery. If the North retaliated, hundreds of guns would transform downtown Seoul into an inferno. Such a crisis would be followed by a war of immense destruction."

But, said The Atlantic, "Trump has altered this calculus. While his 'fire and fury' threat may have been a bluff, he has persuaded the Kim regime that it is dealing with a president who is willing to risk Seoul (along with the U.S.-South Korea alliance). A U.S. military strike, Kim has come to see, is no longer an impossibility."

Apparently, the U.S. president's threats also helped persuade China to support the toughest sanctions that country ever imposed on Pyongyang, making it almost impossible for North Korea to sell anything internationally.

In North Korea, sanctions have increased the price of gas, rice and other commodities, reduced oil imports by one-third, and banned more than 90 percent of the North's exports to United Nations countries.

Even if Kim doesn't denuclearize, it is to be hoped that his ending the testing and ceasing to bristle at the world will reduce the threat from North Korea and contribute to peaceable relations on the Korean peninsula, in the region and with the rest of the world.

More on this story can be found at these links:

North Korea Missile and Nuclear Test Halt Hailed. BBC
Holstering the K-Pop, South Korea Silences Propaganda at the DMZ. The New York Times
4 Key Questions Before the Trump-Kim Meeting. The Daily Signal
How North Korea Learned to Live With 'Fire and Fury.' The Atlantic

Applying the News Story

One of the problems with drawing a lesson for ourselves from peacemaking moves on the international level is that generally speaking, other than praying for the outcome, there is almost nothing individual private citizens can do to contribute to those efforts. We feel powerless to shape world events.

Yet we who are followers of the Prince of Peace cannot let the difficulty of peacemaking prevent us from applying the ways of peace in the realms we can affect, including our own families, our own neighborhood, our own church, and people with whom we interact each day.

The Big Questions
Here are some of the questions we will discuss in class:

1. We tend to think of peacemaking as a global task, but where does the call to make peace apply to ordinary citizens? Are there special applications of the call for Christians? If so, what are they? Since nations have different purposes than individuals, how might their approaches to peace differ?

2. What is the goal of peacemaking? Why is peacemaking a Christian value? What makes reconciliation a matter of theological and Christian concern?

3. Compromise is sometimes a tool of peacemaking, but when does it cease to be useful in making peace?

4. Is it a moral obligation for Christians to take the initiative in peacemaking? Why or why not? How far should you as a Christian go to keep peace with a rude, inconsiderate or obnoxious neighbor? What if the neighbor refuses your attempts at peaceful coexistence?

5. On the international level, armed force is sometimes viewed as a component of peacemaking. Do you agree that it can be? If so, how do we determine when it needs to be used for peacemaking? Are mercy and sacrifice more powerful than armed force in terms of making peace?

Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
We will look at selected verses from these Scripture texts. You may wish to read these in advance for background:

Joshua 22:10-34
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Genesis 13:1-18
Matthew 5:1-12
Esther 4:1-17

In class, we will talk about these passages and look for some insight into the big questions, as well as talk about other questions you may have about this topic. Please join us.

Copyright 2018 Communication Resources

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