Written by Matthew Laney
"He is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us." - Ephesians 2:14
If mixing geo-political questions with religion is not your morning cup of devotional tea, stop now and read your Bible instead, where you will find more geo-political issues blended with religion. Anyway…
Movements for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel are gaining in popularity even in the UCC. The reasons are sound. Israel, in its pursuit of security and peace, has driven the ever-shrinking Palestinian territories back to the Stone Age, inciting a full-blown humanitarian crisis. Last summer alone, thousands of Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of children.
Siding with those bearing the brunt of the conflict against their aggressors might feel like the right and just thing to do… as long as you ignore the reconciling gospel of Jesus Christ.
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn teaches what many Christians have forgotten:
"To reconcile conflicting parties, we must understand the suffering of both sides. If we take sides, reconciliation is impossible. And humans want to take sides. That is why the situation gets worse and worse. People who are still available to both sides need only do one thing: go to one side and tell all about the suffering endured by the other side, and then go to the other side and tell all about the suffering endured by this side. That is our chance for peace."
The gospel requires us to side only with the gospel, bearing the cross of Christ, even in the face of overwhelming tragedy. Remember that whenever you are faced with a seemingly insurmountable conflict and tempers are flaring: in your family, on the job, on the streets, across the ocean.
Stay in the center. Reach out both hands. Listen and love like Jesus. Don't give up.
Reconciling God, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.