Several years ago, while living in Jerusalem, our evening was interrupted by the sound of sirens warning of incoming missiles from Gaza.
A few nights before that one, our anniversary date was cut short as we sat in the stairwell of a hotel in Tel Aviv, along with several Israeli’s, amidst the same glaring noise. Shortly after we decided to return home to be with our 3 kids in Jerusalem.
Living in Conflict
Our family was often asked how or why we chose to live in a place of seemingly continual unrest. What we have found is that you can experience joy in the midst of conflict. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 5:9,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
People naturally want to live peacefully. However, Jesus is not saying blessed are those living in peace, but blessed are peacemakers. Peacemakers actually live in the midst of conflict. In other words, blessed are those living in conflict and bringing peace. Godly joy is readily found in the worst conflicts.
C.T. Studd grew up the son of a wealthy Englishman. He felt compelled to fulfill Matthew 19:21, sold what he had and gave to the poor. He spent his life in China, India, and Africa. In a poem he wrote is the line,
“Some wish to live within the sound of chapel bells; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.”
Studd discovered joy in the midst of conflict.
America loves sports and Americans love to root for their favorite sports team. The World Cup displays people around the globe doing the same for national soccer (football) teams. The problem is that same mentality affects our view of people in the world. It’s easy to watch the news of Middle East strife and put on display our competitive athletic nature rooting for blue and white or black, red, and green. To put on a kippa or Palestinian scarf and take sides in a conflict that takes lives on both sides of the line. But that’s not the Jesus way.
Jesus lived at a time described as the “Pax Romana,” or Roman peace. Rome established and maintained peace through military might. Jesus, however, is referring to a peace (shalom) that makes a person whole, not the absence of war.
Peace is described as a state of mind, inward soundness, and well-being. When people tell me they are praying for the peace of Jerusalem I like to remind them to be praying for the well-being of all Jerusalem’s inhabitants – Jews, Palestinians, Armenians, Secular Israelis, Druze, Samaritans, Russians, Europeans…all who walk its streets and call it home.
Jesus was a peace-making Jew who cared for Jew and Gentile alike. He understood that the sun rises and rain falls on all mankind (Matthew 5:45). Paul describes Jesus as our peace, restoring relationships and bringing unity. “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…and he came and preached peace to you who were far off (Gentile) and peace to those who were near (Jew)” (Ephesians 2:14).
“The coming of Jesus brings the possibility of peace.”
Mourning for this Land
Several weeks before that night three young Israelis, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel, and Gilad Shaar, were kidnapped and murdered near Hebron. A few days after their bodies were discovered, a young Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped not far from where we live and burned alive in the Jerusalem forest. Our family mourned for these sons of Israel and this son of Palestine. We prayed for the families and asked God to bring shalom to this land.
Jesus also shared, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). This mourning is both personal and global. A mourning over the state of the whole world as you see the moral mess and unhappiness and suffering of mankind. Mourning with an understanding that the wrongdoer is sick, in need of healing.
We mourn when rockets are fired from Gaza because the wrongdoer is in need of healing. He terrorizes residents of Tel Aviv and others throughout the land, who are forced to hide out in bomb shelters and stairwells. We met some of them. We mourn when bombs are dropped on Gaza and lives are lost. I watched a video of a toddler being dug out of rubble. A child, barely able to walk, growing up in a profoundly hostile world. This land needs peace.
The World’s Great Need
The great need of the world today is for a number of peacemakers. If only we were all peacemakers there would be no problems, there would be no troubles. So what does a peacemaker look like? What do they do?
- The peacemaker has only one concern, and it is the glory of God amongst men and women.
- Peacemakers are ready to humble themselves and ready to do anything and everything in order that the glory of God may be promoted.
- Peacemakers are prepared to suffer in order to bring it to pass. They are even prepared to suffer wrong and injustice in order that peace may be produced and God’s glory magnified.
- Peacemakers do not simply sit in a study and theoretically work out this principle. It is in practice that a person proves whether they are a peacemaker or not.*
God has made peace. He has humbled Himself in His Son to produce it. That is why the peacemakers are ‘children of God.’ What they do is to repeat what God has done. Peacemakers have an element of godliness about them, lovingly restoring right relationships. God considers peacemakers as one of His own, like a proud dad making the claim, “That’s my boy!” or “That’s my girl!”
Loving God and Neighbor
As people with Israeli and Palestinian friends, we are occasionally asked, “So whose side are you on?” As a family who serves Jesus with a heart to follow in His footsteps and fulfill His command to love God and people – all people, we are on neither side.
Joshua 5:13-14 gives guidance, “While Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, ‘Whose side are you on-ours or our enemies?’ He said, ‘Neither. I’m commander of God’s army.’”
“We are for all peoples and nations, to the glory of God!”
the challenge and prayer
May you have a heart to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all its inhabitants, may you mourn over the state of the world, may you forge a growing desire to be a peacemaker in this world, and may shalom be experienced in this land and beyond its shores.
*Copyright 1959-60 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids. 1976.