Every week it seems like there has been some sort of heartbreaking event streaming though my facebook feed, on the news, or in our communities. Unjust killings, racial conflict, wars, and terrorist attacks have become as familiar as the checking the email. Where is it all heading? What’s next? Is it going to get worse or better?
Last month I had the unique opportunity and privilege to travel to the Palestine and Israel with my grad school, Fuller. The trip was part academic, part pilgrimage, and part geopolitically informative. To stand in the space where some of the most historically tectonic events occurred was powerful on multiple levels, and it was here that I heard some words which connect to our current reality and that have been bouncing around my insides since we returned.
As a junkie of global politics and current events (I fall asleep listening to the news each night- weird, huh?), one of the most captivating aspects of our travels was getting a glimpse into the conflict between Palestine and Israel. This specific location is the nerve center at the root of much of the global divides we face today. It’s in this land that one can witness the affects of colonialism, globalization, fundamentalism, religiosity, as well as historic ethnic, political, and spiritual divides that run millennia deep. On our tour we had the chance to learn from Rabbis for human rights, Israeli teachers, and also a few Palestinians. And it was the perspective of one Palestinian professor and faith leader that left the greatest impact.
His name is is Munther Isaac, and we had the random chance to hear him share about his work and viewpoint at the school he teaches. Beyond the wall that divides Israel from Palestine, in the city of Bethlehem, in what feels like an underdeveloped and impoverished community when compared to those on the the other side, Dr. Isaac invited us to ask some questions after his time of sharing.
I raised my hand and asked the questions I asked earlier, but tried to sound smart and “academic”, this was a graduate school sponsored tour after all.
“Pragmatically speaking, not hopefully, what do you see happening next? Where is the conflict between Palestine and Israel heading? Will it get worse or better?” I asked.
Dr. Isaac responded (this is a paraphrase, but very close to what he said), “Pragmatically, given the lack of accountability on the side Israel, the continued illegal settlements in the Palestinian territory, the extreme worsening conditions for Palestinians, I see things getting worse, potentially leading to a larger conflict.”
There it was, right before our ears. An incredibly educated and deeply connected leader admitting the unfortunate reality that things seem to be getting darker and more divided. Given all that we learned about the conflict, the history, and the failure of reconciliation for decades, it’s a logical prediction. But Dr. Isaac didn’t finish his answer at that point, he went on:
“But one and a half miles that way (pointing to Jerusalem), Christ rose from the grave. So I have hope that things can change and that we will overcome these current difficulties. If I did not I would not be doing what I do.” He finished.
As a person of faith there is always a claim of hope that things can get better. Since finding my way into my beliefs (or maybe they found me) as a young man I’ve heard this message countless times, but seeing a man who’s giving his life for the sake of peace and justice passionately point to a literal location, within walking distance, where the impossible became possible, carried a completely different weight to say the least. From where I sat, I could look out the window and see the skyline of Jerusalem, the place where resurrection happened- like, really happened.
The main thesis of the Christian tradition is that love wins- that’s resurrection. It’s a counterintuitive and illogical proposal that calls us to live into hope even if things don’t look so good. Given all that’s going on in our world at this time, this is a message I think we all need.
Let’s not get weary.
Let’s not give up.
Let’s not settle.
Let’s not live out of defeat, but out of hope.
Let’s continue to work towards mercy, justice, reconciliation, and love in our lives, our families, our communities, and in our world.
What struggle do you face?
What tragedy has given you despair?
What if resurrection happened a mile and a half away, how would that change the narrative of defeat and tragedy in our world?
Like I said, those words are still bouncing around my insides, so I thought I’d share.