Listen, Learn and ServeDiagnosing the events of the Middle East requires great humility. We must resist the temptation to offer quick judgments or uninformed solutions.
Our approach to the complexities of the Middle East should be characterized by hope and humility.
… we have not encountered the level and intensity of violence experienced by people on all sides in the Middle East.
Ultimately our hope of peace for the Middle East is found in the Second Coming of Jesus and the full expression of the Kingdom of God on Earth. While we wait expectantly for His coming, ours is not a passive faith. We are called to be living expressions of Kingdom life here and now.
Our faith is not just a future expectation, but a lived-out expression of what it means for God's Kingdom, for His will to be done “on Earth as it is in heaven.”
In expressing this hope, we also know and experience the fallenness of humanity, and are acutely aware of our own sin and brokenness. This brings humility to our witness. We live in the in-between of the Kingdom to come, but not yet fully come, of forgiveness and redemption and the angst of doing that which we do not want to do and of seeing through a glass darkly.
As Christians it is with hope and humility that we approach the complexities of life, and these should inform our entry into discussions and debate about the Middle East.
As Canadian Christians our attitude of humility should include a recognition that we do not know how we would respond to the acts of violence that continually tear into the lives of Israelis and Palestinians – other than the quick and controversial measures taken by the Canadian government in response to the violent acts of the FLQ.
Whether between French and English, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, we have not encountered the level and intensity of violence experienced by people on all sides in the Middle East. Our inability to deal prudently with the treaties between Canada and many native peoples should also cause us to pause before offering commentaries on justice and solutions to others on matters of land.
Our hope is evidenced in the reconciliation and friendships that have been expressed in the lives of followers of Jesus in the Middle East – between Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians for example. We can learn from the expressions of respect and the collaboration between Christians, Jews and Muslims.
At home we must resist the temptation to offer quick judgments or uninformed solutions. We can also set an example to others by refusing to engage in what one denominational leader called identity theft – the practice of labelling others using self serving language that the others would not use to describe themselves. Let us begin by seeking to understand the theologies and nuances of the differing positions.
In our engagement with other countries, Canadian Evangelicals have learned to come alongside local congregations and national churches and serve them. Our advocacy regarding foreign policy can then be informed by this engagement. The same should be true of the Middle East.
Let's ensure that the voices of Jesus' followers in the Middle East are sought out and heard. They have felt overlooked or ignored by other Christians. Yet they are contextualizing the call of the Gospel in the region we are debating from a distance. Their experiences and understanding of life on the ground are invaluable.
A critical task for us is to support fellow believers and not thwart what God has called them to be and do. If you travel there, seek them out, attend their services and let them define themselves through their testimonies. Tell their stories to others and support them in ways that they deem meaningful.
Our task is to serve them; let's do so with humility and a shared hope.
Bruce J. Clemenger is president of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. He has traveled to the Middle East three times in the past four years and has met with followers of Jesus and government leaders in Israel and the West Bank.
Originally published in ChristianWeek, April, 2008.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2008 Christianity.ca.