It's a poor analogy, but one I sometimes feel.
I feel as if I were watching a spectator sport and people are arguing about why you should support one side over another--which side is better--which side is more in the right than the other.
And then, there are others who claim a stance of neutrality is more appropriate. "I don't have a dog in the fight. Why join in?"
We must also add the voices of those who say, "Why the battle at all? What is the need for the game?"
In this case, the game is a game of life and death; grief and destruction.
Yesterday, I sat on the porch of a house built in the 1860s. A pastoral visit had turned into an entire afternoon of hospitality, fellowship, and revelation--revelation in the sense of getting to know you better.
The 89 year old man was a World War II veteran who participated in the Battle of the Bulge. He has witnessed entire towns blown to rubble. He couldn't help but feel for those who might have been in those towns. "You have to think that those are men and women and children over there. They are supposed to be the enemy, but they are humans. There is no glory in war; there is only pain. The politicians get us into war, and its the young people who suffer."
This man has had many years to reflect upon what he saw and heard and participated in. Such wisdom tends to be missing in many of the conversations I hear about ongoing conflicts around the world.
I wonder what it is to be a pawn in someone else's game. For that is what mostly tends to happen in such situations. Civilians become pawns in the games of those who seek power--for is that not what war truly is? Is that not what ultimately politics really is? A striving for power? A striving for control? And if I have enough power, no one will mess with me--through power, safety and peace are achieved.
I remember an empire which expanded with the same sort of ideals (does the Pax Romana mean anything to anyone?). It was an empire which eventually crumbled. As do all of them.
All empires eventually crumble. Historically, all nations eventually fade. Maps are redrawn all the time.
And it will not change. It simply won't.
Because there is a part of us which desperately desires safety and control. And the best way to ensure safety and control is to draw boundaries. Within these borders, I am safe. And to maintain that safety, I must be strong. I must be powerful. I must be willing to defend those borders, and if expansion of those borders offers me more opportunity to be safe, then so be it! And if I show the slightest amount of weakness, then my safety is diminished.
Power and safety. Hamas. Israel. The pawns: the Palestinian people. The battle rages. There is no glory. Only pain.
And there will be only pain for generation after generation after generation.
Unless something can diffuse that which dominates the human heart. Unless something can turn us away from the hunger for power and safety.
Oh, we try to put all sorts of treaties into place. And we always appeal to self-interest, but self interest leads straight back to power and safety. All the time.
What can break us out of such a thing?
Christianity offers a path--a path not based upon power and safety but upon powerlessness and risk. It centers upon Jesus who, though being full of the power of God--God incarnate--did not choose equality with God as something to be exploited, but He gave up that power to empty Himself on the cross. He died to reconcile the world unto God AT GREAT RISK!
What does that mean?
Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. He died for us and offered us forgiveness before we even asked for it. He reconciled us to God while we were and still are unlovable. Why? Why would He do such a stupid thing?
Because it is contrary to power and safety. It's contrary to the nature of our own hearts. If God can die for us and love us while we were sinners; if God can give up power and control; if God can risk it all on us to love us when we were unmerciful; if God can show that He has already given His all for us; then that can change our hearts.
I remember reading The Cross and the Switchblade many years ago. I can remember a powerful moment when an evangelist spoke these words to a gang banger, "You can cut me into a thousand pieces, and every one of them will scream, 'I love you.'" At that point, one of a couple of things will happen. You will cut the person to pieces regardless and continue on your merry way, or you will be forced to consider why it is someone would willingly offer themselves up for you. How can someone face death and destruction so willingly? How can someone allow another to inflict pain and suffering without seeking power and safety?
If someone takes the time to contemplate, the Gospel begins to take root. The Gospel begins to show a different avenue to power and safety. It's the route to love and risk. You still may be killed. You still may be subjugated. But you have no need of power and safety because you know of something better--something infinitely more powerful and something infinitely more secure.
It's still very easy to jump back to the default. I mean, I know if someone were going after my family and children, I wouldn't hesitate to use power to bring them to safety. That default position is very, very strong. But I hope I wouldn't demonize the one antagonizing my family. I hope my heart has been at least changed that much by the Gospel.
That Gospel, I believe is the hope for the world. For Israel. For Hamas. For the Palestinians.
Don't ask me to be a cheerleader for any side in this conflict. Don't ask me to be neutral. Don't ask me why folks just can't get along.
They can't until sin is confronted. And the only remedy for sin is the Gospel. And the Gospel commands me to be on both sides and against both sides at the same time. And to pray like hell for peace.