Am sitting in a coffee shop after our return from Jerusalem… looking through the early morning darkness at an American flag hanging at half mast. Wondering whether the lowered colors are for losses of our own soldiers or for the suffering people of Haiti…
My thoughts go to faces of those I had a chance to spend time with over the last few days in Jerusalem. Avner is a Jewish Israeli who lives in Beersheba.
He has a son in Hebrew University and another son who has just finished basic training in the Israeli military… and who was being honored along with other soldiers at the Western Wall as we were leaving.
Nizar is an Arab, Palestinian, Israeli who was born and continues to live in Nazareth. He speaks Arabic, Hebrew, and English and is sensitive to feelings of a community that feels like second-class citizens in a State established as a homeland for the Jewish people.
As we talked it was very clear that even though they are both citizens of Israel, both remain deeply influenced by separate family roots and communities.
Our conversations were around some of the same questions we’ve talked about here. Why would God choose one people instead of another? Should followers of Christ take sides in the Middle East? Does it make sense to work for temporary peace in the Middle East? Has the church permanently replaced Israel in God’s plan for the world?
Each conversation raised tough issues for both to talk about. But they did talk… with a clear awareness of friends and family members who would have expected each of them to carry the flag for either Arab or Jewish issues.
I came away with a deepened awareness of what gave each man a deep respect and affection for the other. Both shared the faith of Abraham. Both believe the Bible that describes God’s choice of Israel for the good of all; that the unbelief of Israel would become the opportunity for people of all nations to believe in God’s Messiah, and that the yet future spiritual restoration of Israel would be God’s means of bringing lasting peace and joy to all who turn to Him. (In the above picture, Avner and Nizar stand in front of one of over 100 translations of the Lord’s Prayer in the Pater Noster Cathedral. The prayer begins, “Our Father…”
Yes, I’m one of the many who believe that followers of Jesus who have been so absorbed in the prophetic “end game” that we have gotten ahead of ourselves– and God– in political partisanship and national alignments that do not reflect the present issues of justice, mercy, and concern for all for whom Christ died.
I also believe that in the end, no Jewish, Arab, (or person of any other nationality) who has made peace with God will envy anyone else… or feel deprived… but will instead say,
“Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever” (Psalm 23:4-6).