Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Do Good to Them That Hate You

ancient hatreds seem to die hard.  it is difficult to understand how this can be.  as i watch and read about the strife between the israelis and the palestinians of the gaza strip, i am horrified.  i can't pretend to understand this conflict, but it appears that thousands of palestinians are crowded into this tiny sliver of land, living in deplorable conditions.  on the one side is the sea with an israli blockade, on the other, the powerful israeli armed forces.  above are israeli war planes.  the palestinians fire rockets into israel, causing indiscriminate damage that provokes retaliation by israel.  bombers cross the border into israel, killing israeli civilians, and the israelis respond with more violence.  in the conflict, the government and armed forces of israel appear to be conquerors, using overwhelming force at will against the population of gaza, killing far more innocents than hamas combatants and creating even more enemies who will continue the cycle of brutality.  why can't one side simply end the fighting by refusing to continue?

as i ponder this in my own ignorant and simplistic way, it suddenly dawns on me that the origins of all such conflict is personal.  as i smugly condemn the israelis for their brutal role in using force to try and keep the lid on this simmering cauldron of hatred, i am reminded of my own anger toward the relatives of my father's wife and toward one particular relative that i see as taking hurtful and insulting action against me and my family in the wake of my father's death.  it is only because i live so far away and the only means of convenient communication with this man and other of his relatives are telephone or email that i am able to keep my silence rather than venting my frustration in words that are hurtful and that would cause further escalation of our differences, but the hurt and anger, the longing to say those cruel words, are still there.

how can i condemn the anger of israelis and palestinians with one another while this anger eats at me?  when a palestian father joins the struggle against israel and takes revenge for the killing of his child by stealing into israel to set off a bomb in a crowded market, his anger is personal, and his longing for revenge grows from his powerlessness in the face of an enemy that seems large and impersonal.  but this enemy is made up of individuals like him.  how many israelis have been touched by violence perpetrated by palestinians?  in the end, all such anger and the violence that grows from it are personal, having a deep root in a single act that is multiplied by the cycle of retaliation.

may each of us examine our own hearts for the source of enmity with our "enemies."  may we see that there are no enemies, only those who may "despitefully use" us (luke 6:28, KJV), that ill use perhaps stemming from a perceived offense by us that might have been thoughtless or unintended.  may we see that we are the same and that the only way to end the cycle of hatred is for one or both parties to say, "enough," for one to break off the conflict by refusing to participate in it.  may anger be replaced by peace, may hatred be replaced by love. shalom.

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