Tuesday, July 25, 2006

peace in the middle east

I have a great love for the land of Israel. Having led multiple tour groups there, I have trembled in awe at the experience of walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Sitting and watching the sunrise from the banks of the Sea of Galilee while picturing the boat with Jesus… visualizing the countless miracles that took place on these shores… imagining his teaching in the surrounding fields. THESE are moments and memories that I cherish.

But one can’t help but fear how the current violence between Israel and Lebanon will end. People often think, “Why can’t they all just get along? Stop the fighting! What’s wrong with them!” I hear people respond with disgust at this ongoing violence. All around the world today there are people who are protesting (either for or against) the military actions of Israel.

Here is why I think there is little hope for peace in the long term… it is a little thing called “Human Nature”. When you hurt me, my natural response is to retaliate and hurt you back. Just watch 2 small children at play. This is not something that you have to teach. Retaliation and bitterness is the norm in human interaction.

I look at people that I know and work with everyday. Someone hurts your feelings, cheats you out of an opportunity, or any number of offenses (either intentional or accidental)… and deep inside begins a root of bitterness and a silent resolve to get even. You know exactly what I’m talking about. And it is not just you…it’s me too. It is our natural human response.

Now imagine that the offense against you was the senseless killing of your mother. Imagine it was a suicide bombing that killed your brother. Imagine your child was riding down the street on her bike and someone from the neighboring town struck them down with no regret or remorse.

Would your first response be, “Why can’t we all just get along? Let’s just stop the fighting. Peace is simple. Let’s just hold hands and be friends.” This would not be your natural reaction to having your world ripped to shreds. Most people would rather get angry and get even.

According to Jesus there is only ONE ANSWER. It’s the real “F word”. It is the power of forgiveness. To forgive means that I will choose to leave the scales unbalanced. I will choose to leave the score UNeven. You hurt me and I refuse to hurt you back.

Lack of forgiveness is the ultimate source of destruction in the world. It rips families apart and causes churches to implode. It might be a rift between you and a neighbor, or it might be a rift between Israelis and Palestinians. But the only way to find peace is for one side to say, “I quit. You win. You can hurt me and I will choose to NOT hurt you back.”

That probably will not happen anytime soon in the Middle East. But it can happen in your life. Some people are just jerks and they don’t want to get along. So when you forgive, do not then carry unrealistic expectations that everything will turn out pretty. You see, forgiveness may not bring peace to your relationships. But here’s what it will do. It WILL bring peace to your heart.