Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Why Can't We All Just Get Along

He sits in a living room that has been converted to a shrine in honor of his dead uncle. Surrounded by portraits of his fallen idol, a video of his uncle’s last words plays in the background. He holds a poster with his hero’s portrait on it and declares, "When I grow up, I want to be just like him." It is a welcome sentiment in most families. It might be in your own, except for this: four-year-old Ahmed Masawbi holds a poster of his uncle, Ismail, the suicide bomber who killed three Israeli soldiers last month. Unlike most four-year-olds, whose greatest ambitions run somewhere between becoming a race car driver and a cowboy, when Ahmed is asked about the future he replies, "I want to kill the enemy." Such hate. Such chilling talk from one who only has recently learned to speak at all. It is nothing new. Ahmed is merely continuing a family tradition that is thousands of years old.

The Arabs and the Israelis have been brothers for thousands of years – and not just in the sense that "all God’s children are brothers" either. They have a common ancestry. They come from the same family tree! Ishmael, the father of the Arab nations, and Isaac, the Patriarch of the Jewish people, are both sons of Abraham. These two warring peoples who claim to have such extreme differences have the same father. In Genesis 16, God foretold the strife that would result from Ishmael’s birth when he told the boy’s mother: "This son of yours will be a wild one—free and untamed as a wild donkey! He will be against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live at odds with the rest of his brothers." Despite having the same father, the Arabs and Israelis seem bent on a path of mutual destruction. Unbelievable! Or is it?

The fact is, we often find ourselves "at war" with our Christian brothers and sisters, don’t we? In spite of our best intentions, we find that we just can’t seem to get along. And while we may not send suicide bombers into the "enemy’s" camp, we find other, more subtle means, of assassination. The subtle innuendo. The failure to correct an accusation we know to be false. Questions that sound more like an inquisition. It’s amazing what Christians can do to one another when they cast off restraint. I wonder if the pagan world looks at us Christians, the way we look at the Middle East. I wonder if they ask the same question Moses asked six millennia ago, "Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?"

I began corresponding with a new friend recently. In the course of doing some genealogical investigation on the Internet, I discovered a Jewish man named Weller who lives in Israel. I asked him if he knew much about the Jewish roots of our shared surname. His English is excellent, so we have carried on a conversation for a few weeks. If we continue our email conversations, I hope that I might have the opportunity to tell him about another Jewish friend of mine - a fellow named Y’shua who, despite being an observant Jew, has become the friend of Arabs, Germans, British, Japanese, Nigerians, and even a red-headed, pot-bellied preacher in America. I hope I can tell him about this "brother" because I believe that if he, too, will become one with Y’shua, then he will learn that in Christ there "is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one."

What too few realize, or are willing to admit, is that the solution to the Middle East conflict isn’t for the two sides to both claim Abraham as their father. The solution is for them to submit to the same elder brother – Jesus Christ. Actually, He is the solution to our conflicts as well. When we turn our eyes away from our differences and turn them towards Christ we just might find the peace that four-year-old Ahmed needs, that Israel needs, that we all need.

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