How Should Christians Respond to the Middle East Crisis?

If there was any precarious truce left standing between Israel and Hamas since the last major conflict over the Gaza strip four years ago, it has been destroyed in the past few days as rockets and air strikes have been launched from both sides.

Grave casualties and injuries continue to mount as the current conflict between Gaza and Israel remains unresolved. 100 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more injured, many of whom are women and children, as the Gazan population lives under a blanket of airstrikes. Israel has experienced three fatalities and 60 injuries while citizens try to move forward in everyday life enveloped in the anxiety and fear of pending rocket assault. All this as has led to a point today where Egypt has stepped in to mediate a potential cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, but the final decision has yet to be made."

And as the conflict and many human lives hang in the balance, my heart is heavy.

We cannot become numb to the things that should bring us to our knees. Allow yourself to feel pain on behalf of the mothers who have lost their children and the children who have lost their parents.

Through my work with The Global Immersion Project, I have spent a significant amount of time over the years cultivating relationships among both Israelis and Palestinians as we partner together in cultivating a narrative of reconciliation.  As is often the case when we approach a people or place with the hopes of being/bringing the needed change, I have been the one most changed by my friends and colleagues who reside in the Middle East.  Behind so many of the subconscious stereotypes and prejudices I had acquired earlier in my life I began to experience the richness of friendship and brotherhood among people I had previously "known" only through the latest sound bite. 

From Orthodox Jewish Rabbis to Christian Palestinian scholars to Muslim Palestinian leaders teaching the way of nonviolence, these are my friends, brothers, sisters and partners.  

When my social media outlets began filling up with messages of fear, bloodshed and mourning my heart broke not only for a war half way across the globe, but for my friends. My teachers. My partners.  

A Jewish Israeli friend wrote, "Siren in Tel Aviv. Just spoke to my father from the shelter."

My Christian Palestinian brother shared multiple laments, "My friends in Gaza's latest status update:  “My Lord! This is enough! What is this?”
“Lord protect us. What is this? Terror terror.” “The land is shaking.”

While many of these individuals are currently in immediate physical threat, a greater pain for them is seeing the seeds of violence being sown in the soil that they have tireless turned over for the sake of reconciliation.  

Was all their work worth it or does this mean it was all-pointless and that there really is no hope?
 
My heart not only breaks for my friends in Israel and Palestine, but it breaks because of the hateful stereotyping, racism and violent response being disseminated by Christians as they watch the news unfold and enter the discussion.

Am I an objective observer or are there ways I can be part of the problem or part of the restoration?


 
As followers of the pro-people Jesus, is this best we can do?  Is that a reflection of the Christian hope that was brought about by and through the acts of the Suffering Servant?  Have we lost our imagination that leads to the participating in the restorative mission of God for the cosmos?
 
Friends, we can do better.  We must do better.  
 
How then shall we respond?

Grieve the Loss of Life

It is easy to look at escalating death tolls as numbers that are simply a consequence of war rather than the tragic loss of precious life. Whether Israeli or Palestinian, each are part of the human family made in the Image of God. We cannot become numb to the things that should bring us to our knees. Allow yourself to feel pain on behalf of the mothers who have lost their children and the children who have lost their parents.

Listen, Learn and Be Still

We would do well to slow down and listen to the stories of others before telling their story for them.  Those that have stepped foot in other cultures—whether domestic or international—know how much we have to learn as products of each of our unique upbringings and worldviews.  Slow down, listen, learn and be still before jumping to words or actions that may do more harm than good.

See Common Humanity, Before Political and Religious Differences

We all inherently know that the diversity of humanity isn’t going to allow for us all to perfectly agree on politics and religion.  Rather than look at people through the lens of politics or religion, look at them through the lens of a shared humanity.  All humans were made in the image of God.  When we see Jesus in the eyes of “the other” it is much harder to hate, hurt and demean.  

Pray

Pray for the healing of others, from all nations and religions. Pray for peace in places of conflict.  Seek forgiveness for our blind prejudice.  Ask for courage for those who promote Kingdom values.  Pray for new friendships to be cultivated among former enemies.  Pray for your enemies.  

Ask Hard Questions

How might have my political or social involvement perpetuated or sparked damaging consequences—in thought or action?  Am I an objective observer or are there ways I can be part of the problem or part of the restoration?  Is the form of Islam or Judaism that is being portrayed in the media an accurate form of faithful Islam/Judaism or a simply an ideological counterfeit? 

Expand Your News Sources

It’s not the distance that keeps Westerners from objective news coverage, it’s polarizing political, social and financial realities that surround this region. There is no more critical time to be savvy in how you listen and learn from the media. Do not listen to only one source, but tune into multiple sources for various perspectives. Even better, hear firsthand accounts from friends or trusted sources who are living in both Israel and Palestine. This is a complex issue that requires holding multiple narratives in tension.

Live a Narrative of Compassion

Those of us who know and have experienced real life with the people who are now being labeled “terrorists” must bring to the table the disconnect between perception and reality. We must acquire the resources that will help us better step into this situation with eyes for common humanity, justice and the heart of God.  We must live into the narrative God desires for humanity, which inevitably leads us to care for the hurting—whether grieving families who have lost loved ones, individuals who are targets of hate or the stereotyping happening in your neighborhood because of events halfway across the globe.

Geographical distance does not dismiss us from human compassion for those who are suffering. Let's begin this process of compassionate and Christlike response now.

41 Comments

84,859

Ted R. Weiland commented…

"Strictly speaking, it is incorrect to call an ancient Israelite a
'Jew' or to call a contemporary Jew an 'Israelite' or a 'Hebrew.'
(Richard Siegel and Carl Rheins, eds., Identity Crisis, The Jewish
Almanac, (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1980) p. 3.)

That sentence is the opening sentence of the First Chapter entitled
"IDENTITY CRISIS" of the 1980 Jewish Almanac. According to three Jewish encyclopedias and Flavius Josephus, the
entire Edomite nation was forced into converting to Judaism and became
known as Judahites at the time of the high priest John Hyrcanus (Maccabaeus):

"in the days of John Hyrcanus (end of the second century B.C.E.)
the Edomites became a section of the Jewish people." (Edom,
Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, Israel: Encyclopaedia Judaica Company, 1971) Volume 6, p. 378.)

"They were then incorporated with the Jewish nation." (Edom,
Idumea, The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York & London: Funk and
Wagnalls Company, 1904) Volume V, p. 41.)

"from then on they constituted a part of the Jewish people, Herod
[King of Judea] being one of their descendants." (Cecil Roth and
Geoffrey Wigoden, Edom (Idumea), The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
(Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977) p. 589.)

"they submitted to the use of circumcision, and the rest of the
Jewish ways of living; at which time they were hereafter no other than
Jews." (Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus,
(Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1960) Book XIII, Chapter IX,
Verse 1, p. 279.)

We keep hearing that if we don't bless the modern State of Israel
(which America has been doing since at least 1948) that we will be
cursed. However, it seems it's been just the opposite, Since 1948, you
name it, and there's not an area in America wherein she hasn't become
worse off.

For more, see the online book "The Mystery of the Gentiles: Where Are They and Where Are They Now?" at http://www.missiontoisrael.org....

84,859

Anonymous commented…

A question for those who want us to love everybody, and put up with their abuse, regardless of how impossible it may be to bear, is: Do you look forward to the day when every man will turn to his own people and flee to his own land, according to Isaiah 13: 14?

84,859

Anonymous commented…

Why would they or should they have the right to occupy that territory? And no - it's not because it was once their land. They never were the people of the scriptures that were given that land by God.

84,859

Sharris 88 commented…

Thank you for your thoughts... my husband and I are currently living in the West Bank. Politically, we support Israel, however as you said, LIVES are being lost and it is incredibly sad. It is SO IMPORTANT to remember the humanity of everyone involved.

Rick Skala

1

Rick Skala commented…

You have done an excellent job of providing a perspective on this issue that is not often disseminated. I lived in Beirut for two years at a time up until the 6 day war. My experiences there taught me about the history of both the palestininans (thousands were warehoused in "refugee camps" around Beirut) and the Israelis which included the now forgotten attempts they made in the late 1940s to beinclusve of nonJews - but not inclusive enough.Hearing the real history from my neighbor, a UN official from Denmark, The mainstream media has gotten lazy and too interested in selling a story as opposed to being journalists and thus all we here is the sensational sound bites, vivid images of death and destruction and the mass response of popluations who fear for their life and the lives of their family. The non main stream media which even reaches into the pulpits of churches in the USA has seized on agenda based story telling ignoring history and using illogical associations to manipulate support for their agenda. All this does is leave the typical American in a place where they just want to tune it out orgive up and pass on the rhetoric. Now we have a reality where Jim Fletcher is correct when he gives his perspective on propaganda. In my short life experience, behind every good propaganda machine there is inevitably some group or person vying for control of people, resoures and economics. At this point neither the arabs in Gaza or Israel and for that matter the Jews have clean hands.But at the end if the day, what did they expect would happen when they started tossing missles into Israel? How does a nation trying to maintain its sovreignty in the face of such attacks while right around the corner on all sides but for the Mediteranean there exists enemys to that sovereignty respond? Our best response is prayer for the people of the region, prayer for the leaders on all sides, and prayer for our leaders as we all know sooner or later the US will be expected to do more in this crisis than is currently being done. Again thanks for the article.

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