“All’s fair in love and war” the old saying goes, but true love is focused on the good of the other and filters itself accordingly. During the past few hundred years, Western civilizations fought their wars in the name of a king or on behalf of a country, with conventions (at least in principle) that were supposed to guide their warfare.
Those old boundaries, the kind found on maps, don’t matter quite so much anymore. Al Queda and their assorted ideological and spiritual cousins like ISIS, Hamas, Boko Haram, Hezbollah and other clusters of warriors bent on the destruction of Western civilization/Christian faith/the Jewish race. This summer’s grim news reports have underscored that the rules for this kind of warfare do not follow our tattered old Western playbooks. The reactions to this summer’s news reporting in both mainstream media and among the social media community I follow have been mostly of the insult-following-injury variety. Perhaps because warfare by definition is all about one side versus another, polarized talk in our culture has left me feeling as though I need to duck in order to avoid the next verbal punch.
- “The nation of Israel has engaged in an overkill response in Gaza.”
- “The people of Gaza are being oppressed by Israeli government policies.”
- “The United States left a hella mess in the country after they pulled out of Iraq, where our military shouldn’t have even been in the first place.”
- “The rise of Islamic fundamentalism is an understandable response to Western imperalist policies.”
- “Israel doesn’t have a right to exist.”
- “Who are we to tell Iran that they can’t develop their nuclear program?”
- “Incidents of anti-Semitism around the world are on the rise.”
- “Christians and other ethnic/religious minorities are being targeted for genocide in countries where Islamic militants are attempting to take over existing governments.”
I am not naive enough to think I am protected from the events happening in the Middle East and in parts of Africa because I live on the other side of the world. As 9/11 reminded us here in America, we are squarely in the sights of fundamentalist Islamic terror organizations as well. And as a Jewish believer in Jesus, I am very aware that I and others like me can not escape from the desire expressed by these armed, raging groups to wipe Jewish people and Christians from the face of the earth – an earth with no artificially-mapped boundaries, a single world dedicated to the practice of “pure” Islam – no matter which way we turn. There is no place to hide.
I’ve had a number of people ask me for my thoughts about what’s going on “over there”. I’m no foreign policy expert. I do not align myself with the various streams of headline-as-tea-leaf-prognosticating of the dispensational prophecy-conference crowd. I have allegiances and opinions (well, I have opinions about all kinds of things, as regular readers of this space already know), but I recognize that not everyone I respect will share those opinions straight down my own particular party line. I am far from a hawk in most, but not all, circumstances. I believe that war is never a blessing named in Scripture. It is always used as a last-resort movement of God’s judgment on sin and idolatry. Jesus came with a message of the culture to which he was inviting us – restoring the shalom of Eden before the fall to the world he loves – of turning the other cheek to enemies, going the second mile to care for them, of settling with an opponent on the way to court before the judge pronounces a verdict. When I read the book of Acts, I see the first Jewish followers of Jesus sometimes standing up for themselves in order to confront power with truth, and other times going into hiding and letting the culture play itself out.
This longing must form my response – and yours, if you are a follower of Jesus the Jewish Messiah, too. We will be less polarized and more healthy in the single body of Christ to which we belong if we:
Pray. Pray the words of Jesus. Watch for the ways in which he describes his kingdom. Align your opinions with his opinions of the world he died to save.
Resist using de-humanizing language for those who are acting as enemies of the groups you name as the good guys in your analysis of the situation. This is the tactic of warfare propagandists, and doesn’t belong in your arsenal.
Alleviate suffering through the care of those victimized by the conflict. Send bandages and medicine in the name of Jesus to relief workers. (Need suggestions for who is doing the work of relief on the ground in these hard places? Contact me.)
Learn. Read current events from a variety of perspectives, using the filter of the Holy Spirit. And please, for heaven’s sake and your own, read history.
Pray some more. Pray for those being persecuted, those who’ve lost loved ones and homes, pray for enemies, and pray that your own faith will be strengthened so you will endure, through these birth pangs, to the end.
What else would you add to this brief list? What prayers have guided you? What organizations are doing work you find especially meaningful?