Hope in a Time of Violence
In every Gospel account, there is some element of Jesus teaching about the apocalypse, but we often misread these statements as being about the end of the world when in fact, there is some nuance to the language. Generally, he talks about “the end of the age” or “when the kingdom of God comes near.”
Over the last week, we have watched as atrocities have been committed by Hamas fighters in Israel. And now we are watching as retribution falls back on Hamas and all of Gaza. Voices around the world are calling out in condemnation of the violence, particularly the heinous acts carried out against innocent civilians. This is not the end of the world, but it is the culmination of an age. Let us hope, pray, and continue working for the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Over the last couple of days, the voices are beginning to separate into pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian choruses. This is a complex and difficult situation that defies simple statements because so much depends on how wide you extend the timeline of your judgment. What is seen through the lens of a week looks differently than the lens of a decade or centuries.
A week ago, the atrocities were committed on multiple fronts by Hamas against civilians. Farms, schools, and even a wedding party were brutally attacked; Hamas committed kidnappings, rapes, and murders against men, women, and children. This was and is terrorism. I join with those who condemn these horrific acts.
Israel’s response this week is terrible and swift, and their response to Hamas is justifiable in the face of such acts.
The concern that immediately follows is the reach of that swift and terrible response into innocent civilian lives. A siege is never an accurate weapon. And the savage violence of one side may become a long and just as savage brutality on the other.
These savage acts were likely meant to bring to an end recent strides in the Abraham peace talks that were bringing greater cooperation and peace to the region. If true, it makes the injustice an even deeper betrayal of hope.
Different frames of time show how people come to different conclusions about justice in Israel and Palestine, particularly Gaza. This event is not isolated from the history that precedes it by these last few years or last few generations. This moment is the culmination of many years and many generations. The sweep of this history is truly biblical.
And our response must be biblical as well. We cannot forget that Christ was born and lived as a Hebrew in Israel and Palestine, and the Gospels were lived and written and are a part of this same history. The woman at the well in John and the Syro-Phoenician mother crying for healing for her daughter in the Synoptic Gospels were conversations across the same walls of cultural and historical hatred and violence. Our Lord navigated the same streets now strewn with bodies and rubble.
His apocalyptic statements were uttered in those very streets where the armed now patrol and the innocent now huddle.
The call for peace is certainly a call to end violence, but a biblical call to peace is also a call to repentance for all of us. It is a call to forgiveness grace, and justice. A righteous peace is not merely an end to this moment’s conflict but a changed heart that can bring an end to the long history of fear, hate, and violence. This is our only hope for a just and lasting peace.
We join with the cry for this just peace and an end to the violence against civilians and non-combatants, to rocket fire and terrorism, and against indiscriminate retribution. We pray for justice and a new day without violence and hatred.
May we all turn away from evil and become peacemakers whose inheritance is the Reign of the Prince of Peace. If this is an end to an era, may the next be closer to God’s Kingdom.
Right after we arrived in Columbia last year and moved into Forest Acres, anti-Semitic flyers were found strewn around the intersection just a couple of blocks from our home. Let us not pretend that this conflict is distant or that it does not involve us here and now.
The Anglican Church, like many other branches of the Jesus movement, has Christians in Israel and Palestine. I know priests and bishops who are scrambling to contact loved ones in southern Israel and others who are trying to escape Gaza. These are our sisters and brothers in harm’s way. Our faith’s roots lie in Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem. Our ancestors in the faith are Hebrew and Palestinian. We are commanded to pray for peace and protection for Jerusalem in our Bibles.
Our American churches have harbored anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic sentiments for generations, and though almost all would disavow those ideas now, we cannot ignore the damage those views have done and continue to do when extreme groups still dominate our headlines and old violent chants come ringing out in protests in American streets even in recent years.
Christians are not free to harbor hate. We have taken vows, vows I join with you in renewing week after week in our baptismal covenant to renounce evil, respect the dignity of every person and work for justice and peace.
Do not let these vows get co-opted by mere partisan politics. The stakes are too high. We must all be on our knees praying for a just peace, a righteous peace that shows the world that the God of all Creation is not a tribal idol trotted out to bolster our team in a fight but is the Prince of Peace, the Creator God of Love whose wrath is for those who trample the innocent and toss aside the weak. The God revealed in Jesus is the Lord who longs for the return of all to be his people, to be loved, and to love.
We must do all we can to be agents of God’s Kingdom in this moment. Repent of old hatreds and hate only sin and that which destroys the creatures of God. Love people because you love God and have been loved beyond all measure.
Do not let your heart or your mind be caught up in an easy scapegoating of others. None of us is worthy of the grace we have been given. None of us is free of the obligation that grace lays on us to love.
Stay faithful to the Prince of Peace. Keep hope alive. And I will see you along the Way.
Tags: Notes from Along the Way