Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Respect or Disrespect?

Hello Friend,
A personal note from me this time, plus an excerpt from friend Marlin Vis.

I've been reading JESUS THROUGH MIDDLE EASTERN EYES, by Kenneth Bailey, who is very knowledgeable about the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, and the customs and traditions current during the time of Jesus of Nazareth. He shows how Jesus turns the tables on conventional habits of "hating" the Samaritans, how Jesus invites people to include outcasts and outsiders to the Messianic banquet; on how his whole life is poured out toward people who criticize, reject, and kill him (Parables of the Good Samaritan and the Great Banquet come quickly to mind).

This Jesus is hard to follow when it comes to Jews and Palestinians who keep resurrecting 1000 year old suspicions, hardness of heart and yes, even hatred, toward one another. It is this attitude of the heart that "God" wants to treat, it seems to me, to help us go beyond the "normal" attitudes of revenge, bitterness and death that results.

As usual, our friend Marlin Vis, gets at the heart of the matter in a recent post. He begins by sharing how his seven-year-old daughter Emma observes how many (church) people love her dad and affirm him. Ah, but I'll let him tell the story:

Children are paying attention as to how we treat one another. And when it is mainly church people that Emma sees me interacting with, well get this, right? People who love Jesus love her Papa. She loves her Papa. Church people must be pretty good people if they love her Papa. Let other church people say "Amen!"

Here's why I bring this up: The most important matters in life are caught, not taught. I know you know this and have heard preachers preach this a million times. But we forget. So here's a little reminder: When Emma catches love between people who love Jesus and her Papa too, then she catches the love too. In fact, she basks in it. I started watching her more closely. When someone was loving on me, she was beaming--seriously--beaming. Then she'd look at me as if to say, "See, told you." I'd smile. She'd smile. It was our little secret.

I don't know what is the larger point in this story--the point beyond a mere moralism. Maybe there isn't one. Not long ago I sat on a big, green Israeli bus, filled with Jewish Israelis along with a handful of others--ex-pats like me, and a Palestinian or two. Sitting near one another was a pair of mothers, one Jewish Israeli and the other Muslim Palestinian. Each had several children. The Palestinian mother was on her way to the hospital on the west side of Jerusalem--the Jewish side. I watched the children watch their mothers as the two women glared at each other with such obvious hatred and loathing. Hatred is passed on from one generation to the next. Long before formal education begins, the children on both sides have caught the hatred virus, and killing this killer-bug is about as difficult as killing cancer after it has metastasized.
God, it's sad. And God is sad.

Friends, let's look for ways to reaching out to the outsider, the outcast that "everybody" else excludes. It's "easy" (as our Leader said), to care about those who care about us. It is a more "godly" thing to love "enemies" who don't care about us at all.

Let's get into someone else's shoes and realize why people feel the way they do and get to root causes. There will be no "progress" in Isr/Pal unless and until there is a move toward mutual respect for one another, repentance over past disrespectful behavior and a willingness to "set things right", whatever the personal cost. When we continue wallowing in our "victimhood" (how grievously we have been offended against), and withhold openness to "the other" and nurse the grievances, there will be no "peace". Conversely, when we feel the pain of "the other", say "I am sorry" for any way we may have contributed to it, treating one another with respect, the relationship changes, for the better.

(Let Marlin and Sally escort you to visit with "reconcilers" over there, and you'll be converted to a "better way" yourself). Your servant, John Kleinheksel