The events that are unfolding in Lebanon and Israel are horrific. They are, of course, the most recent chapter of a bloody conflict and history which must disturb every person with a conscience. I’ve been challenged by the largely pro-Israeli stance of the press and the media here in the UK and and deeply troubled by the lack of a coherent voice from the Christian sector of British and North American life. Why can’t we just say that the killing of innocent men and women in Lebanon and Israel is wrong? But the larger question has to be does violence ever solve anything? I think not, but would value your view.
War is never just. Look at the faces of mourning mothers and angry brothers and you can see that this is not going to solve anything. Coming from Northern Ireland, I’ve had my share of the consequences of violence. From friends to family members, I’ve attended too many funerals to think that the violent taking of another person’s life ever solves anything.
How can we justify the indiscriminate killing of almost 800 Lebanese people? How can Hezbollah justify the deat of over 50 Israelis? And why isn’t there a clear and unambiguos call for a ceasefire and an end to the outrage that is taking place in the Middle East at the moment. If the attacks on Lebanon by Israel were reversed, Tony Blair, George Bush and a myriad of other western leaders would have spoken up. How can leaders of the Christian church remain silent in the face of this atrocity? The attacks are wrong and they must stop. I’m in contact with Lebanese and Israeli people and over the last few days have been heart broken as I read the emails of terrorised Lebanese civilians. Their children, their brothers and their parents are dying. Their homes are being destroyed and their futures shattered. The same is true of many families in Israel. The YMCA in Lebanon and the Baptist church are creaking under the pressure, yet determined to stay and do something to help those who are suffering.
We should take sides in this conflict. But we should take the side of the attacked, the excluded, the bereaved, the poor and the mourning – whatever their nationality and whatever the shade of their religious or political convictions. God will not take the side of either Lebanon or Israel. He will stand with every one who is being needlessly attacked on both sides. We should too.
I’m reminded of the story of the fall of Jericho recorded in Joshua Chapter 5. Joshua wanted God to takes sides and asked God which side He was on:
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"
14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord [d] have for his servant?"
15 The commander of the LORD’s army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
God patently refused to be nationalistic with Joshua and we should follow his example. I was challenged yesterday by Matthew Choater 15 which tells me simply that after Jesus had spent time in Judea – he departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon – modern day Lebanon.
God is not only in Jersualem, he is in Beirut as well.