As we watch news about the events unfolding over in the Middle East, it’s important to remember that the term “Holy Land” includes not just Israel but also Bethlehem and Jericho (both in Palestine), parts of Syria (Golan Heights), Jordan (where Moses stood and viewed from Mt. Nebo), and the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt).
“The Holy Land” is the term we use to describe those areas where significant events took place from our faith, and where people of faith live today. Jerusalem is considered “holy” by the three monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – and all three have worship centers there.
The problem comes when hard-liners want to control ALL of the region, and believe that anyone who is not of their faith is an infidel and must be eliminated. Historically all three religions have done this. The Crusades showed incredible cruelty against Jews and Muslims. The Ottoman period (control by the Muslims) showed remarkable tolerance and acceptance, but Jews and Christians still had less rights than Muslims of that time. With the current control by Israel, Christians and Muslims have their freedoms severely limited, including limited trash pickup and only having running water once per week. They also have to have special travel visas and are limited to when and where they can go to see family, conduct business, and generally do life.
I am sad that there is warfare. The average Jew, the average Muslim, and the average Christian I have spoken with while I have been there over the past 30 years want to live in peace. They want to love their neighbor. They want for the animosity to end! They want to raise their families and be allowed to worship their God in their own way, and to allow their neighbors to do the same.
We can’t point fingers – we have issues in our own country. We have hard-liners who will not budge and hold the American people hostage because they believe that only their way is right, and they do not want to accept anything but their own way. (And if you think that I’m only talking about one side, you are mistaken!)
But Jesus was not about drawing lines – Jesus was about drawing people in. The woman at the well – the lepers outside the city – the thief on the cross. These are the people that “good” people rejected, but Jesus loved and embraced.
What can we do about the Middle East right now? Pray for the people of Israel and Palestine. Don’t assume that the violent people we see represent ALL of the people. Understand that we are only getting part of the picture.
We can choose to not join in with hateful language that paints one side as “good” and the others as “evil”. While many of the acts are indeed evil, the entire people of Palestine or Israel are not evil. They just want to live in peace.
Here in our own country, here in our own church, we can choose to love and listen. We can choose to believe that the person on the other side is also a child of infinite worth to our Father, and that they may have a point. Only by seeing each other as human beings will we be able to love each other as Jesus loved.
Pray for the peace of Israel. Pray for the peace of Palestine. Pray for the peace of America.
Pray for the peace of your own heart. Amen.
- Rev. Bill