by Emmanuel Freeman
For Christians traveling to the Holy Land, today’s religious sites would have been the highlight of their experience. Going to the Old City of Jerusalem, Damascus Gate, The Dome of the Rock, Via Delarosa, Church of the Holy Sepulcher (amongst others)… these are places that are essential to the Christian faith and the very reason that most Christians make the pilgrimage to Israel. We are interested in walking where Jesus walked and making a faith connection to the land. Jerusalem is where Abraham offered up Isaac and where it is believed that Adam was created. Jerusalem is also where Jesus traveled and shed his blood for our sins.
However, while it is great to be able to trace Jesus’ steps, he never focused on connection to the land. Jesus focused on our connection to each other! Being at the holy sites today reminded me that the importance of Jesus is not in WHERE he lived but HOW he lived. So after visiting these amazing historical sites, my prayer for the remainder of the day was see God’s image in his greatest creation, man. And later in the day, I would get to see Jesus’ values of love and sacrifice on full display.
In the second half of the day, we visited Israeli settlement colonies and a small Bedouin community. Bedouins are Arab shepherds that have roamed the desert living off of the land for thousands of years. The poverty of the Bedouins was in overwhelming contrast to the posh gated community of their Israeli neighbors located a short distance away. Faced with discriminatory housing policies, illegal displacement, and ethnic cleansing, the Bedouin culture is on the brink of collapse.
However in the midst of the madness, religious and non-religious allies (like Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, our Israeli guide) stood in the gap to fight for the Bedouin community. They not only assisted in building and re-building a school for the Bedouin children, but would stay overnight to use themselves as human shields against Israeli attacks. Allies are tirelessly using their privilege to try to right some of the wrongs that are being forced on this fragile community. Talk about God’s love in action!
The Bible reminds us (in so many ways) that the love of God includes sacrifice and action:
1 John 3:16-19 By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
Jesus is not to be enshrined in the dust of the Earth but to live in each of our hearts. So I challenge each of us as Disciples of Christ to extend our hearts and our arms to the oppressed and needy, just as Christ did for us.