I have stood in Israel. I have stood in Palestine.
I have stayed in the home of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank. I have met their family. Broke bread with them around their tables. Laughed and danced with them despite our lack of a shared language. I have listened to their stories and held their babies.
I have walked the halls of Yad Vashem. I have looked into the eyes of an Israeli man as he talked about losing his daughter to a bomb.
I have touched the wall that is a scar on the land where the Prince of Peace walked.
I am pro-Israel. I am pro-Palestine. I am pro-peace.
There are no winners in this war. There are only losers. Perhaps the biggest losers are the children. Thanks to social media, we have been overtaken by a deluge of pictures – children who have suffered and died from the conflict. I don’t care whose fault it is. The history between these two groups ensure there are enough fingers to point in all directions. Regardless of blame, all children will lose in the present, and all will lose in the future. The children of Israel and Palestine will not inherit a home where they know peace. Conflict, violence, blame, and de-humanization is what will be passed on from this generation to the next.
And to the next.
And to the next.
This will continue until someone decides to lay down their guns and mortars and stand for peace. Not fight for peace. That’s what we already have. That’s what the world teaches us. Fight for peace. Peace will come only when we vanquish our enemies with the violence of the sword. We are indoctrinated with the belief that peace cannot exist without violence to bring about peace. But do not worry. With God on our side the sword can be redemptive.
Or so we are told.
What if the violence we bless with words of peace is the violence that obstructs peace?
For now, we sit in our homes, witnesses to the brutal truth that violence begets more violence, as pictures and videos stream across our screens. We want to believe something other than this cycle of violence. We want to believe that violence will bring peace. That, one day, there will be an end to the violence and that end will come at the end of the sword. We want to believe and hope in chariots and horses and swords, but these things will not bring peace. There has only ever been one act of violence that offers lasting peace – when God laid down his life.
Only when we follow suit, when swords are beaten into plowshares, will peace be known.
On his way to the cross, Jesus looked over Jerusalem and wept saying, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.” I wonder if the way of peace is still hidden from out eyes. The gospel has become so individualized, so spiritual that the teachings of Jesus, when applied to life, are seen as the ramblings of a naive, hippy, idealist. Turn the other cheek. Give your tunic and your cloak. Go the extra mile. Jesus said it exactly right. We have heard it said, “Eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth” and we still believe it. Those nice ideas of doing good to your enemies just won’t work in this world.
Turning the other cheek will get you killed.
It did Jesus.
I realize it is easy to say that from the comfort of my peaceful home in the middle of Indiana. But I also believe the teaching of Jesus applies to all of life, and despite its counter-intuitive nature, is the way God intends us to live.
So I am pro-Israel. I am pro-Palestine. I am pro-peace.
And I pray for peace. I pray for those children who will inherit a future of eye for an eye. May the peace of Jesus come quickly.