“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9, ESV
There is sure a lot of news happening around the world this week, and not much of it is good.
For the second time in a period of just a few months, passengers boarding an airplane operated by Malaysian Airlines lost their lives in a tragedy. This time, the plane was shot down over Ukraine, near the Russian border, in an area where a war of sorts is happening between Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government. It’s not likely that anyone on that plane had anything to do with the conflict. They were innocent bystanders, and had no control over the circumstances. Maybe you’re not really interested in what is happening in Ukraine right now, but this tragedy is a real life example of how something can affect you, whether you are involved in it or not, and interested in it or not. There are several hundred families, scattered around the world, who were suddenly affected by it. And if you watched the images, and listened to the descriptions of it, it was impossible not to be affected by it. Put yourself in the picture, or in one of the seats on that airplane, and think about it for a few minutes.
At the same time, Israel has launched an invasion of Gaza. We’ve seen those images for weeks, too, of rockets being launched from Gaza into Israel, some of them hitting and damaging buildings and houses, and rockets and air raids in retaliation from Israel, dropping bombs on targets in Gaza identified as Hamas strongholds. Some news outlets aren’t showing pictures of the terrified residents of Gaza, mostly women and children, fleeing from the bombs, or the mangled bodies of citizens in the wreckage of what was once their homes, while others are not showing much of what is happening on the Israeli side. I really don’t see how you can watch any of that, regardless of which side is being shown, and not be affected. Most residents of Gaza, while they are Islamic, and Arabic, aren’t terrorists and aren’t involved with Hamas, but like the passengers on the Malaysian airliner, are caught in the tragedy. Likewise, there are Israelis who support their government’s actions, but there are those who openly express a desire for a peaceful solution and resolution to the issues which prompted the violence in the first place, but they are still targets of rocket attacks, regardless.
“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” Matthew 5:45b, ESV
It’s pretty easy for us to take sides. We don’t like the Russians, much. So it is easy to lump them all together, slap the “evil” tag on them, blame them for the tragedy and be done with it in our mind. Likewise, faulty eschatology and theology leads us to place all Muslims in the category of extremist terrorists, and take the side of Israel, based on “Juda0-Christian” tradition. Read the book of Acts to see what happened to Christians in the early church at the hands of Jewish religious leaders. The tradition is only a modern one, not historical. Israel is certainly one of the closest allies of the US in the Middle East, but the whole recent history of the region is a botch that goes back to the Versailles Treaty which ended World War I, the bottom line being selfishness and greed. Modern Israel is a Jewish state from a racial perspective, but it is a secular government with an atheistic influence in political philosophy and the conflict that involves the Arabic population in Gaza, as well as the surrounding area, stems from all of that, and not just the recent events which triggered the most recent round of rockets and bombs.
Do we really believe that the Bible is truth, without any mixture of error, and is infallible in its teaching? If that’s the case, shouldn’t the words of Jesus, recorded in the gospels, and particularly those that are found in Matthew 5,6 and 7, prescribe the position, and the response, of Christians to these tragic events?
When I was in college, one of my friends was a Palestinian Arab whose family lived in Nazareth. He was also a Christian, and though his family had originally been part of the Orthodox tradition, they had come to know Jesus through the ministry of an evangelical church in their community. Though his family had experienced religious and political persecution because of their Christian faith, and their Arabic heritage, his father set an example of being obedient to the law, and submissive to the government as directed by scripture. As a church leader, he was involved in the resolution of many conflicts involving members and their neighbors, and from his son’s description, I imagined him as a genuine peacemaker, a son of God.
My friend and I would discuss the situation in his homeland from time to time, and he believed that the only way for peace to be achieved was for people to come to know the “Prince of Peace,” and to take Jesus’ words about loving your enemies seriously. I never heard any resentment from him about his circumstances, though I know they had some hard times. The family had been displaced from property that they had owned for generations, so fellow church members financed his education in the US. His dream was to go back to Israel and plant a church that would reach people of all the races and religions in his community. Last I heard, he was doing that.
Peace seems like a huge job in the face of what is going on in the world today. Why is it so easy for us to find someone else to blame, and find ways to bypass these clear words of Jesus recorded by Matthew in the Bible?