Rockets and bombs are dropping.
Children are dying.
Families are being torn apart.
Anger is growing.
Rational thought is diminishing beneath waves of fear and war-mongering.
And the blogosphere and twitterverse are abuzz with rhetoric decrying both sides.
Yesterday I saw two Facebook posts on friends’ timelines that illustrate that the war in Gaza is not just about bombs, rockets, bullets and land…it’s also a war of ideas.
The first was shared by a decidedly Right-wing friend…
The second by a Palestinian friend…
Which is the truth?
Is Israel merely acting to “defend themselves” from “hundreds of terrorist rocket attacks” using “surgical precision” against an enemy who wants to “wipe them off the map“?
Or are the people of Gaza suffering massive disproportionate retaliation by Netanyahu and other war-mongers in Israel who are looking for any excuse to flex their military muscle in an ongoing 60+ year-long military occupation of land they’ve stolen?
How one answers these questions is determined by whichever version of history one adopts…and that’s the hard part.
Because historical understanding of complicated geopolitical events is…well…hard work. It takes lots of reading, listening, and a willingness to question the assumptions we’ve come to hold regarding who are the “bad guys” and who are the “good guys”.
And frankly, most people–particularly most Americans–are either too lazy, busy, or biased to put in the time needed to better understand what’s going on right now in that little strip of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.
So what do we do? We find news outlets that agree with our worldview and we listen to them.
If we believe Israel is a righteous nation who are surrounded by hostile evil bent on its destruction, we listen to the Glenn Becks and Fox News summaries out there and ignore the human rights abuses and illegal actions Israel has committed for decades.
If we believe Israel is the evil pariah nation who has oppressed and subjugated righteous Palestinians for decades and must be destroyed, ignore the evils of radical Islamic leaders (like THIS) who use Israeli attacks to fan the fires of hatred and violence among their followers.
We hear what we want to hear and pick our side to root for.
We even insist to others that God is on our side in this war and name our campaigns of violence after passages from our respective Scriptures.
All the while, children die and families are destroyed.
So what are we, particularly those of us who follow Jesus as Messiah, supposed to do?
What are we to think?
Who are we to “stand with“??
I believe we are to stand with the innocent who are suffering–regardless of their nationality, religion, or flag color.
I believe we are to stand with the peacemakers–regardless of whether or not we agree with everything else they may believe.
I believe we are to stand with the truth–and do everything in our power to listen to the voices who say what we don’t want to hear in order to weigh carefully their claims.
I believe we are to stand with our Messiah–who achieved ultimate victory through suffering as a Lamb rather than roaring like a Lion.
What are we to stand against then?
I believe we are to stand against all forms of hatred based on race, religion, or nationality.
I believe we are to stand against all distortion of truth regarding historical facts.
I believe we are to stand against the strong when they oppress the weak.
I believe we are to stand against the weak when they seek to use the weapons of the strong from which they themselves have suffered for so long.
I believe we are to stand against stereotypes which play upon people’s fears, hatred, suspicion and desires for revenge.
Isn’t the Middle East a lost cause? Haven’t they been fighting since Biblical times?
This itself is an urban legend which needs to be rejected by any follower of the Prince of Peace.
There has been peace in the Middle East…and there can be again. Ultimate peace will only come about when Jesus returns and puts all things right. But relative peace can exist in the meantime–in fact, that’s precisely what Jesus’ followers should be constantly seeking to aid in bringing about!
But in order to do that, we must seek truth. And in this age of entertainment-disguised-as-journalism such truth is hard to come by.
However, we still must try.
And our zeal for “our side” should never outweigh our knowledge of the situation. It’s easy to feel that we know more than we really do, especially after we’ve seen a Youtube video or read a book. But truth takes more than that. It takes listening to or reading from voices with which we disagree. It takes talking with others and having our ideas or assumptions tested or exposed.
In short, it takes intellectual humility…something that is not good for TV ratings or blog hit counts.
May we lift up in prayer all those who are suffering–refusing to only pray for one people or one nation’s well-being!
May we love “our enemies” tangibly and self-sacrificially–refusing to demonize them through comments on social media.
May we put pressure on those in power–on all sides–to stop such madness and put people above ideology.
May we never lose hope that in the end, the God who searches the depths of every heart and mind and who knows the motives of every action will bring all things to light.
Then he said to me,
“These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!
15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will never go hungry or be thirsty again, and the sun will not beat down on them, nor any burning heat, 17 because the Lamb in the middle of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 7:14b-17 (Disciple Dojo’s translation)
Blessings from the Dojo…especially to our brothers and sisters in Israel and Gaza,
For more on understanding the theological foundations which affect how people view such conflicts in the Middle East, get a copy of JM’s new book “You WANT to be ‘Left Behind’!!” over at Amazon.com for only $2.99 and listen to Disciple Dojo’s course “Apocalypse Now??” on understanding the Bible and the End Times (also available streaming for for free download at http://sermon.net/jmsmith)