Simeon blessed them (Joseph and Mary) and said to Mary His (Jesus) mother, ‘Listen carefully: this Child is appointed and destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that is to be opposed – and a sword [of deep sorrow] will pierce through your own soul—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’
Luke 2:34-36 (Amplified Bible)
Tragedy, turmoil, persecution and war does, as we sometimes say, bring out the best and worst in people. This has been true throughout history in every culture, nation and community. We do not have to look far to see this. There have been occasions in more recent times when people and institutions we regarded as pillars of society, even those sworn to uphold the law and foundations of the nation, have shown themselves to be utterly corrupt, brutal, self-serving and totally devoid of morality or humanity of any kind.
To use the biblical terminology quoted at the head of this short article – when ‘the sword’ pierces the ‘soul’ or indeed a community – the thoughts of the heart are revealed – and often these are not pretty.
In Jesus’ day when the righteous facade of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders and the conscience of the community, were pierced, it revealed them, at heart, to be intent on the murder of their Messiah. Jesus himself pronounced them children of Satan (harsh words indeed) –
You are of your father the devil, and it is your will to practice the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar and the father of lies and half-truths.
John 8:44 (Amplified Bible)
The sword of evil which has been unleashed in the last week or so in the Middle East has, likewise, the tendency to reveal hearts.
In all of this it must be recognised that, as one commentator who has personally lived through the horror inflicted on Israel in recent days has stated – ‘The level of pain there (Israel) is so high there isn’t a single millimetre left to recognise or deal with any other pain in the world.’ (referring to the pain, death and destruction now being inflicted upon the civilian population of Gaza.)
But what truly shocks me is to see the revealed hearts of many, much more detached, who call themselves Christian, as they support calls for the death and destruction of innocent civilians – and have no compunction in giving their assent to the collective punishment of innocents within a community for the sins of the minority.
Much could be said here but I suspect that now, with heightened emotions on all sides, is not the time to debate these issues in depth. Sufficed to ask a very simple and, I believe, important question. In the light of the life and teaching of Jesus, what should our response be?
First of all, I believe we need to strip away labels – they are not helpful. Rather we must see people as people, people created in the image of God – and, most importantly, see them as Jesus sees them. He values and loves all – if not then our concept of Christianity is false. Furthermore, our God is the God of the marginalised, the broken, the weak and the persecuted – no matter who is responsible for their plight. He is always on the side of the oppressed – not the oppressor (no labels remember).
The Christian who gives open assent to the killing and destruction of innocents, whoever they be, needs to take great care that their true father is indeed the One revealed in the face of Jesus Christ and not, as in the case of the religious leaders of Jesus day, Satan.
Some time ago I addressed a number of the issues raised here, as well as my personal experience, in an article entitled ‘The Cult of Israel’. Anyone wanting to read it please CLICK HERE