Newly minted Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, upon visiting South Korea, said in a press interview, “…the policies of strategic patience have ended.” It was a stern warning that the U.S. will no longer tolerate North Korea’s threatening acts, and that they will pay them back in full. Previously, during the days of the ‘Sunshine Policy’, there was a time when patience never ceased. There was a hope, at the time, that North Korea would be moved to open their doors to the softened and warm political approach. However, recently the North test launched four ballistic missiles, angering its neighboring countries along with the United States and South Korea. Secretary Tillerson, who called the last 20 years of foreign policy a ‘failed approach,’ said that he does not want a military confrontation with North Korea, but if necessary that the option is ‘on the table’. He also commented that he wouldn’t rule out the idea of placing nuclear weapons in Asia as well to provide further protections against North Korea.
When a knife is in the hands of a doctor, it saves lives. However, in the hands of a thief, it may take lives. In that sense, the last 20 years of trying to take the knife away have been a failure, and it feels that unless the knife is now taken by force, a cautious countdown may begin on many lives. I am not too sure of what the political agenda may be in regards to the complicated political climate that the Korean peninsula is facing with its neighboring countries, but I hope that there are no greater accidents to innocent people that arise as an attempt to forcefully take the knife away from the thief’s hand.
As I was reading this article on the Secretary of State, I couldn’t help myself from picturing an overlapping of God’s and our relationship. I feel that God has a ‘strategic patience’ in regard to us. John the Baptist would yell, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord!’ and warned, “…You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father… even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7-9, ESV.) When Jesus began his public ministry, Peter asked him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” I feel that Peter hoped to hear that several times would be enough for a strategic patience. However, Jesus unexpectedly answered, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22, ESV.) If insistent, that comes out to 490 times. I’m sure nobody after forgiving 490 times goes for 491. After forgiving so many times, it will most definitely be difficult to keep count. In other words, the Lord is articulating that he wants a gospel-centric patience and not a strategic patience. My mind goes blank when trying to calculate how many times my parents were patient even just for me, one person. When I think about how many times God must have been patient with me, my throat gets dry and tears fill my eyes. He said 490 times he would forgive, and for 491… Ultimately, I turn around in repentance towards the Lord who carried the cross.
Rev. Bryan Kim is the lead pastor of Bethel Korean Church, located in Irvine, CA.