The Holy Land

Hmmm, let’s have a look at this. Last century the West helped Jewry resettle and take over a portion of what we call the “Holy Land”. From a secular perspective the West felt they owed it to the Jews due to their terrible suffering in the WWII. From the Western Christian perspective we felt we were honouring scripture, which we believed gave the land to the Jews without condition. So promises made by the West to Arabia and other nations during WWI were broken as the Middle East was carved up and apportioned just like the West did to its other colonies. “Divide and conquer” was the way, as Western interests sought to control the resources and markets of the region.

Ok, so what about the Palestinians who owned the land and houses in the region; those who were settled there and held the title deeds to the places where they lived with their families? Many of these were Muslim and many of them Christian, settled there since the Day of Pentecost. Let’s try to see it from their point of view. They didn’t commit the crimes against the Jews of WWII. They didn’t have a Western theological view. Many lost their homes. Would we like that? If we feel responsible for WWII, don’t we also share that responsibility in Palestine? Would we want that done to us? Wouldn’t we see the whole thing as just another Western colonial operation, just like all the others the West has done against other indigenous people groups? The West isn’t the only ones to do this. It is throughout human history. But since the time of Constantine many in the church have often tended to “baptise” these actions with scripture.

And what about the attempts by Palestinians to get their land back? Some of these have been terrorist attempts, like the terrorists activities of early Israelis in the region before their independence. So to disable the terrorist plans by some of the displaced people, we shut them up in ghettoes and cut off their freedom to the outside world, and we punish the whole people to secure our security. Is that right?

To be sure, the whole issue is complex. But is this how Jesus taught? Is this how he said land is to be lived in and secured? I don’t think it is. His whole teachings in the Gospels were about living in land where God’s kingdom comes, and his will is done like it is in heaven. And it is not achieved by a Roman type of invasion and occupation. It is done by loving and caring for our neighbour, even the enemy, the Samaritan. This is how we “occupy” land, together. This is the Promised Land Jesus described and died for. So although the situation is complex, the teachings of Jesus about his kingdom must inform the answers we look for and encourage. If Israel is to have a secure future it will be through honouring this message of the prophets of the Old Testament and this message of the Law about their neighbour: the message of Jesus. Domination won’t do it. That will just lead to the demonising of whole groups of people, people like you and me, with children, who feel pain and anxiety like we do.

Living in the land means we learn to listen to the pain and stories of others, and not just our own. It’s living together. It’s healing each other. It’s “eating and drinking with the sinner.” It’s loving our enemy and learning how to bring reconciliation within our wider community. Those of us who follow Christ should learn this and be among those who teach it and live it, because we follow a Lord who entered into our pain through his love and took our pain as his own, and then brought us out of it by a free gift: when we didn’t deserve it. “Follow Me.”

This is how we bear witness. As for the “kingdom”, God will take care of that his way.