For many of us, viewing the situation in Palestine, the recent assault on Gaza has prompted despair. The desire to do something is countered by the question ‘what can I do?’ The situation seems hopeless. So it must have seemed for Jeremiah – and God told him to buy a field, a field he knew he would never personally possess.
Daoud Nasser must have felt that despair when, a few weeks ago, the bulldozers came and uprooted 1400 mature olive, grape and other fruit trees. In 2009 Palestinian Christians began and ended their ‘Moment of Truth’ statement to the churches with ‘a cry of hope in the absence of all hope’.
On hearing of the fall of Jerusalem Ezekiel has a final word of judgement on Israel’s leaders, a word that moves into consolation. God himself will rescue, will bring them back, will feed them ‘with justice’. There is hope, so Daoud, a true Christian representative of Palestinian faith, will do what? He will plant trees. Who will help him? Amongst others, Jews from Israel and around the world.
I watch and listen to the news from Gaza and I weep. I weep for lives cut short, mainly innocent women and children. I weep for Israeli soldiers and Israeli children so steeped in the Zionist message of superiority and fear, and I weep for our leaders and media who will face judgement for what they have done and said and what they have failed to do and say.
I weep for the church, for Christian leaders who silence echoes round the world, but I don’t despair. Even now I remain convinced that the church, Christ’s body, is part of God’s plan for the renewal of his creation. An essential and hopeful part of that plan.
But apart from tears and anger what can I do, what must I do? The Palestinian Christians cry is also a prayer (Kairos Palestine 2009), and I must join them in prayer, but what else?
Paul, at work amongst Gentiles and Jewish believers remained identified with the church in Jerusalem. He remembered their poor and organised a collection for his faraway brothers and sisters. We can honour that identification by giving help to our Christian brethren in Palestine knowing that they will share it with their neighbours in need, whatever their faith.
And, whilst loving mercy, we must act justly. Our faith is not ‘pie in the sky when we die’. God’s plan is not to rescue us from his world so he can destroy it, but, working in His kingdom people through Spirit power, to redeem it. God’s victory will finally and fully be complete in the new creation where heaven and earth are joined as God intends.
That is good news, that’s the good news of the kingdom. Though, if we ignore injustice today the good news, God’s gospel, becomes mere words, vain philosophy. “be reconciled to God” Paul pleads, but reconciliation begins with holding people accountable. We are reconciled to God only when, first, we recognise our sin and repent. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission recognised that essential engagement, that it is only on the basis of truth that reconciliation can take place.
Reconciliation depends on forgiveness, which is only occasionally an act, more often a process. Humanly speaking, forgiveness doesn’t demand repentance, but without repentance forgiveness is a one-way street and reconciliation is in its very nature two way. How will our leaders, whether religious or political, learn of their need to repent unless we hold them accountable. That’s our responsibility to them just as, in the church at least, it’s their responsibility to us.
What to do? Support the church in Palestine, through gifts, (if able), through prayer, through linking with specific churches or through organisations active there. I must speak up and out, even it it generates antagonism toward me, as long as my words are true and not hateful.
And You ?