Saturday, June 11, 2011

Who are the True Enemies of Palestinian Christians?

Who are the enemies of the Christian that Jesus commands us to love and pray for?  According to Sami Awad, Executive Director of the Holy Land Trust, the enemies Jesus tells him to love and pray for are Israeli soldiers.  So when he is instructed as a Christian in Matthew 5:44 to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you", Mr. Awad applies this passage from the Sermon on  the Mount to the Israel Defense Force.

In a June 2, 2011 blog post on Huffington Post, entitled, "WWJD? A Non-Violent Conflict Resolution for Palestine," Mr. Awad, a Palestinian Christian states,
How could a person living under military occupation, experiencing first-hand suffering and humiliation, even think about loving the enemy, let alone urge family, friends and neighbors to do the same? This challenging message came from a young rabbi named Jesus in his "Sermon on the Mount.
Of course, Jesus could have suggested we make peace with our enemies or negotiate peace agreements or peacefully resolve conflict; those statements would have been as shocking to the suffering Jews of that time. Instead, he entreated them to go further: to "love" them. This was the word he chose -- a command to all those who seek to follow him.
First, let us not ignore the context of Matthew 5:44 about loving our enemies before we start love bombing every thing that moves and breathes.  The context of the passage is first century Israel which was under the control of Roman imperialism.  Jesus is speaking to first century Jewish people about His messianic kingdom.  He is persuading the children of Israel who make up His audience to accept His kingdom manifesto and to embrace Him as the Messiah King-Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus also realizes not all Jewish people are going to accept Jesus as the King Redeemer of Israel and not all Jewish have to this day.  Yet Jesus knew that some Jewish people like myself will accept Jesus as Messiah.

Right away a conflict is created.  Jesus said this would happen in Matthew 10:34-36
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, 
a daughter against her mother, 
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.
Honestly, not my favorite Bible passage. But I've experienced hostility from fellow Jewish people because of my commitment to Jesus.  It comes with the territory and I understand the historical roots of this enmity.

But what does Jesus tell me to do towards Jewish people or gentiles who stumble over my acceptance of Jesus? To love them and pray for them even if they persecute me. The persecution comes n the form of verbal attacks, the silent treatment as well as through many thought provoking books and articles written by Jewish scholars to disprove the claims of Jesus to be Israel's long-awaited Messiah.  So be it.

To Sami Awad, I want to say, Jesus was speaking about a Jewish community issue that only Jewish people would understand.

On the other hand, Christians have quite a lot to answer for the inexcusable and horrendous ways throughout Christian history they've treated Jewish people who have not accepted Jesus.  Jewish people have been massacred, tortured, exposed to forced conversions, expelled from European countries and so much more . . . . all because they made a choice not to believe in Jesus. The Christian church, who should know better and which claims to be empowered with the love of Christ lacks any excuse for their persecution and slaughter of Jewish people especially during the Middle Ages.

Sami continues in the Huffington Post article
So while I had grown up knowing about the Sermon on the Mount, living it creates a different meaning and purpose. The first step in loving the enemy is to love and honor myself as a person loved by God, to break free from the fear and hatred within me, and to no longer claim victimization and seek pity as a result of the oppressive forces around me.
So the enemies that surround Mr. Awad are the "oppressive forces around him" -  Israeli soldiers dedicated to protecting Israel from Palestinian terrorists meant to do harm to innocent Israelis. Where in the Sermon on the Mount does Jesus refer to military personnel, political or nation enemies as the adversaries He is referring to?  He doesn't.

Taking Sami Awad's incorrect interpretation of Matthew 5:44, he needs to stop pointing his finger at the Israelis as the "enemies", but he, as a Christian, should look in his own backyard for the real enemies of peace.

 It's not the Israeli soldiers that are the enemies of peace between Palestinians and Israeli.  Rather, the real enemies are the Palestinians that have embraced terrorism as the means to peace.

If Sami and the members of the Holy Land Trust want to use non-violent means to create peace, they best use their efforts to confront their own terrorist government Hamas.  In addition, these Palestinian Martin Luther King wannabes should look at their own people who cowardly send children and women into Israeli territories with bombs strapped to their backs in order to blow up innocent humans - Jewish, Christian and Muslim.  Shrapnel makes no religious distinctions.

By Sami Awad's failure to condemn the terrorism of his own people, he drops the ball of Christian love by not confronting the enemies - his fellow Palestinians Muslims - of not only Jewish people but Christians as well.

WWJD?  Jesus would tell Sami Awad and his followers to begin their non-violent quest and go before Hamas, Hizbolleh and other terrorist groups who are finding safe refuge in the Palestinian entity and face them with their evil and lack of respect for human life. Use blockades, protests, peace marches and sit downs in the Palestinian territories and tell your own people to stop sending Katyusha rockets from Gaza into Israel.

Finally, if non-violent Palestinian Christians want to create a conflict resolution peacefully, then the best approach to take is to ask Palestinian leaders in Fatah and Hamas to accept the existence of the state of Israel.

The present issue is not about borders, Israeli settlers in the West Bank, the security wall or Israeli checkpoints. The only issue is about the refusal by Arab and militant Islamic leaders to fail to accept the existence of the state of Israel.

Israeli PM Netanyahu, in his speech before the US Congress, a few weeks ago said that Israel will accept a Palestinian state.  Where has there been a reciprocal response from any Palestinian leader about accepting a Jewish state?

All I hear from your leaders, my Christian brother Sami Awad, is a call for the destruction of Israel and the extermination of the Jewish people.  Those who call for the annihilation of Israel and the Jews are enemies of the God of Israel and your enemies as well.

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