Monday, February 9, 2009

What It Will Take

The following story is told by “Howard”, a Messianic [Jewish] pastor in Israel, and “Labib”, a Palestinian Christian, in the early days after the latest conflict in Gaza. Labib Madanat is the Director of the Palestinian Bible Society. Both are trying to be true followers of Jesus who requires us to love one’s enemies.

Howard writes: The director of the Bible Society, Labib, called me up saying that he wanted to come down to Beer Sheva today and visit wounded soldiers at Soroka Medical Center. I was very pleased that my schedule today gave me the time to go with him. (As the Lord would have it, I had spoken with Labib shortly after the war to check on the situation of the believers in Gaza).

When he arrived, we went to buy flowers to give to either the soldiers themselves, or to members of their families. At the hospital they told us that there were only four soldiers still there under care, some still seriously from their wounds.
[Howard’s son Evan served with the army in Gaza].

Then Labib picks up the story: For the vast majority of Palestinians, Evan is a soldier in the enemy army, for you [Howard], he is your dear son. Who is he to me? I believe Christ asks me to choose, and as painful as it feels at times like these, I count Evan as MY BROTHER; you are my family.

I celebrate with you his safe return and pray that he will make it home safe soon. May the Lord have mercy upon our peoples and protect His body from the poison of this world.

Pray for us as we are preparing to go back to Gaza taking the love and mercy of Jesus. As we go we will not go alone, I know you are with us, our Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters, blessing those whom the vast majority of Israelis would see as enemies. We are one...because of Jesus.

Now Howard picks up the story: When we went to visit the soldiers, Labib shared his concern and love with them and/or their families. He told them he was an Arab from East Jerusalem. You could see the expressions on the faces of the soldiers, visitors, and families visibly change and even harden. He told them how he was a Christian, not as a religion, but as a personal faith in Yeshua, whose message is peace, [and as a follower of this “Way”].

Labib told them he even visits Gaza, and hopes to do so in a few more days, and that his friend had been murdered there by fanatics because of his Christian faith. Labib simply came to bless them, tell them he loves Israelis and the Jewish people, and is thankful to the Israelis in that he is a citizen, and even more for the Messiah who came as a Jew.

In each case of visiting different soldiers or the families, after seeing their expressions and perplexity at this Palestinian Arab Christian coming to bless them and to wish them well, I then told them about my son, Evan, who was in a particular combat unit, who had also fought in Gaza. That Labib and I could come together was proof that his gesture was not an empty one, but a real and tangible expression of the truth that is in his heart. When they realized what was going on here, all of them lightened up, and expressed their appreciation for Labib coming and the goodwill he carried. It was a privilege and an honor to accompany Labib today and see a child of God extending the peace which comes through really knowing Jesus.

Now a comment from John Kleinheksel (who received this story from “Robin”, one of our “FPI” friends): This is the Spirit that will carry the day in Isr/Pal. I frankly don’t know the “track record” of Messianic Jews in Isr/Pal. Pastor Howard cared about what Palestinian believers were suffering in Gaza. Director Labib cared about what Israeli soldiers were suffering in Israel.

All of us must be sensitive to the injustices which must be redressed. The new dynamic needed is love, caring, reaching out to the “enemy”, in fulfillment of the Spirit of Jesus of Nazareth. From where else does this Spirit come?

I’m reminded of the incident as told in the gospels, of a Roman occupation officer/soldier coming to Jesus for help. Jesus could have refused to deal with the Roman military officer’s request for help, since the Roman occupation troops were so violently, cruelly oppressing his fellow countrymen. Instead, he offered to go to the officer’s house and heal the man’s servant, complimenting the hated man for his simple trust (Luke 7:1ff).

Howard and Labib seem to illustrate people reaching across hateful divides, to bring healing where there has only been recrimination, hard-heartedness and violence. When this Spirit is let loose, our world goes beyond the old way into the new “Way”. There will be no peace without justice; there will be no justice without love. Shalom, Salaam, Peace.