Monday, December 02, 2013
LOVE OR NOTHING
Over the weekend I spent some time with a Palestinian Christian who was visiting Orange County. As we sat together and listened, this man shared with us the sad details of how fear and prejudice and nationalism has made peace in the Middle East a seeming impossibility. However, he and a handful of other Christians are convinced that the way of Jesus might still work. So, they are doing what they can to bring Jews and Christians and Muslims together to help them see beyond those cultural, religious, racial divisions and begin to actually love one another, as Jesus commanded.
One thing he shared that greatly shocked me was that even as hundreds of Muslims are coming to faith in Christ, most Palestinian Christians will not fellowship with them. They are still blinded by racism and fear.
This man, Salim Muyaner, has written one of the only curriculum's in existence on peaceful conflict resolution. As he shared this, one man in the room said to him, "You should send that curriculum to the Sudan." Salim responded by saying, "Only to them? What about to you? Your nation is the most influential cause of violence in the Middle East. Why shouldn't America study peace?"
Later, Salim reminded us that "We find peace in the face of our enemy. We find our future in the face of our enemy."
Later, at this same meeting, I also talked to another Christian man who has befriended the leaders of Hamas and often visits these men to pray with them and to urge them to seek peaceful resolutions to the conflict and struggle they are involved in. He told me about an amazing conversation he had with the leader of Hamas that stunned me.
He said that he asked this man two questions; One was, "Do you believe that God speaks to men in dreams and visions?" The man said "Yes." Then he asked, "Will you pray with me about one thing until God does it?" The man said, "What is it?" My friend said, "Pray that God would give a vision of Jesus to Obama, Netanyahu, and the Prime Minister of England and that He would teach them the way of Peace." The man - who was the leader of Hamas - with tears filling his eyes, grabbed my friend around the neck and began to kiss his cheeks again and again. "Yes," he said. "I will pray with you for this."
Maybe you're shocked to hear this? But many Muslims revere Jesus (or "Isa" as they call him) as a great teacher, and as a messenger of peace.
As I drove home that night, I reflected on what I had heard. The situation in the Middle East is beyond difficult. The stake-holders are not about to give up power. The Christians there are unwilling to love other Christians if they were formerly Muslims. The Jews are unwilling to grant Palestinians the right to "one man, one vote". The Muslism are not willing to accept Jewish rule. Where does that leave everyone? In the middle, endlessly struggling against one another.
The words of Jesus came to my mind: "Repent or likewise perish." In other words, if the people there do not repent of their lust for power and their desire for justice, then there is no hope for them except for more bloodshed and violence and pain.
What could turn everything around? It is the transformative love of Jesus. If the Christians there in Palestine could begin to love their Muslim neighbors, if they could begin to forgive their Jewish oppressors, then there would be peace in their land, and more importantly in their hearts.
I have been praying since that night that God would begin to touch the hearts of His people there in Palestine and in Israel, to look beyond their prejudice and fear to embrace other Christian brothers and sisters - whether Jewish Christians, or Arab Christians, or Palestinian Christians.
Then, I pray that those united brothers and sisters in Christ could begin to go next door and wash the cars of their Jewish neighbors, and share food with their Muslim neighbors, and pray for their communities to come together, and be willing to lay down their lives for one another.
Does that sound impossible? It has happened before. It has happened in Liberia, and in South Africa, and in South America, and yes, even here in the U.S.A. Believe it or not, it has even happened in the Middle East! In fact, this whole idea of loving your enemy, and blessing those who curse you, and praying for those who hate you, and doing good to those who mistreat you started in the Middle East.
So, perhaps there is more hope than we think?
Maybe you would pray with me for Christians in the Middle East to come together in unity? Maybe you would also join with my friend, and the leader of Hamas, as they pray for God to send a vision of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to Obama, and Netanyahu, and Cameron?
There is hope for the Middle East. There is hope for America. That hope is Jesus, and His radical message of Enemy Love.
Let us pray.