Only Love


When I was in 7th grade World History, there were peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Our teacher decided to help us understand by having a class debate. I was so excited. I knew that I would get to argue for the Jews. My recent reconnection to my ancestry, and my living Jewish relatives had given me a new sense of identity and pride.

My assignment was to the side of the Palestinians. I was angry. But I was also a straight A student and was not about to lose a grade over being on the wrong side. (Wow—that’ll preach one day.)

Our team researched. We learned history and culture and current events. We learned rudimentary debate skills. The day arrived.

I got my A. More than that I learned for the first time what it really meant to walk in another’s shoes. Ever since, I have paid attention to the side of an argument that opposes my own perspective. I have since then also had a great empathy for the people of Palestine.

Hamas is a different story. I have no idea how to empathize with people who do what has been done. I don’t understand the level of trauma and inhumanity that must underlie a person’s ability to kill children with such heinous and vicious disregard. I can imagine that it can only be driven by a great and horrific loss and despair that is exploited by the greed and hatred and power of others. I suspect I know nothing of what these people are thinking and have experienced. I also cannot imagine there is any path to talking and diplomacy, though I can and do hope against hope that there is.

The only power I know that can defeat such a demonized and possessed people is the power of Christ’s love. Even so, it must be a love that is beyond what most of us are able to provide.

Unless we are also driven by that same loving Spirit. For at any given time, are we not all capable of a vicious retribution fueled by despair and traumatic soul-depleting injury? “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Or as is written in The Westminster Confession of Faith, 6.084,

“As there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation;

so there is no sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.”

Thus, let us join in prayer,
“By your mercy, O Lord, pour out your Spirit upon the warriors as well as the terrorists that the killing may stop. Pour out your Spirit, O Christ, upon the peacemakers as well as the warlords that the killing may stop. Pour out justice and mercy, faith and hope, and above all love, O Spirit, that the killing may stop. Inspire in me an empathy that sees your image in my enemy that I might see the enemy within myself. Draw us together that we might be repentant, resurrected and whole, a new creation, forever dwelling in peace and unity. Through Christ, for Christ, in Christ, amen.”