While there is much to be done nationally and internationally, there is equally as much to be done internally and communally.
Here’s what I mean:
Often times, when we hear stories of crisis and/or injustice our initial response is to say, “I need to go there and do something.” It’s a righteous response and the stuff of a breaking heart. However, too infrequently do we allow the stories of crisis and/or injustice to undo what must be undone within ourselves or the communities of which we are a part. That is, we’re quick to parachute into other’s issues of injustice before examining ourselves and discovering our own prejudices, racism, hatred, etc.
What I’m not saying:
I’m not saying that it is wrong to want to do something tangible in response to what you’ve read of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. By all means, there’s much to be done!
What I am saying:
We must become people who allow ourselves to be moved, changed, refined, and formed by God. There are times, probably frequently, when I need to allow violence to be done to my perspective of me; that is, I daily need to allow myself to be undone and remade by God into a more accurate image of Himself such that His thoughts, words, and actions become mine.
So what can we do?
First, pay attention to what moved you most in the stories below and ask God why it moved you so. Get curious with God, yourself, and those closest to you about what God may be confronting, undoing, and reforming in you. We cannot become a part of any solution until we have confronted the reality that are a part of the conflict.
1. Develop the capacity to hold multiple narratives at once. This is complicated, messy, and necessary. Perhaps the start point is to introduce a rhythmic prayer like this into our daily repertoire: “God, empower me to step into others narratives with the same compassion that you stepped into mine.”
2. Practice radical presence. We must cease so filling our lives with stuff that we are incapable of being present in the gift and/or pain of the now with others.
3. Embrace a Hebrew understanding and Jesus-practice of “Love your Neighbor.” In the Talmud, loving the neighbor is equivalent to being pro-people. The Talmud describes my neighbor, created in the image of God, as more important than me. “Love your Neighbor” does not just mean “Love those who are like me.” but includes “Love those who are different than me, who persecute me, who abuse me, who hate me.” In the Gospels, “Love your Neighbor” means give all of yourself away for the sake of the other.
4. Embrace a Palestinian understanding and Jesus-practice of hospitality: when you are with me, you are the resident and I am the guest. In the Gospels, the Cross communicates hospitality at the highest cost: “you belong with Me!”
5. Embrace a Hebrew understanding and Jesus-practice of peace-seeking. According to the Talmud, seeking peace involves an insane pursuit of places and people where peace is not a reality. Once finding the place and/or people void of peace, actively work to build it. In the Gospels, the most important act of worship is reconciliation. It may be sin for us to sit on our hands in our own personal illusion of peace while there is conflict elsewhere.
6. Get creative in love. Words are becoming progressively meaningless in our world. Thus, we must encourage one another into creative, redemptive, compassionate, toward-people-moving action.
7. Become adept at traversing cultural boundaries with emotional connection and sensitivity. Perhaps the first step is identifying multi-culturalism in our contexts and then courageously and graciously crossing the threshold.
(Note: “Culture” is a term that I use generally to refer to groups and sub-groups of people who organize themselves around a specific identity and set of practices. We DO NOT need to get on a plane to cross cultural thresholds!)
8. Be about “human rights” but shift our understanding from “my” rights to “our” rights. Human rights do not exist for my individualized gain but so that we can come to the defense of those whose rights are being compromised.
(Note: One’s shift in understanding of human rights from “my” to “ours” begins when we start paying attention to humanitarian crises in the world around us. Ask, “What humanitarian crisis moves me in my local context? Global context?” Ask, “God, how are you inviting me to participate with You in being the solution?”)
9. Cease the non-helpful kind of spirituality where we are committed to proving how smart we are. In reality, people care very little how smart we are, nor are they longing to be guided by smart Christians. Rather, what people are longing for is to be guided by people whose lives reflect the Story that we claim.
10. Deal with the religious extremism caused by poor and/or convenient understandings of the Scriptures in ourselves and within our own faith communities. We have no right, nor do we have a voice, to deal with extremism within other faiths or communities.
11. Pay attention to the Freedom Flotilla that is trying to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Currently the boats are being held, at gun point, in the Greek port under an American and Israeli threat to Greece. To get updates on this, follow US BOAT TO GAZA on facebook.
12. Pay attention to the Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence that will occur within the UN in September. Much of the International Community will support this declaration…The United States has already declared its intention to veto.
13. Watch the internationally recognized documentary Budrus, the story of one Palestinian village’s remarkable non-violent resistence to the building of the Wall, and then do a screening of it with your community resourced with the stories and theological reflections from The Unconventional Way that were helpful for you.
14. Come with me some day and meet the Jewish and Palestinian heroes on the ground.
15. Keep exploring and stepping into the Just Heart of God.
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?