Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122)
Glass mirrors reflect images of the reality that stand before them. But there are other kinds of mirror-like reflectors that include people and nations. Children often reflect the behavior and language of their parents, not always for the better. Nations reflect the best and worst of their histories and socio/politico values.
Jerusalem and the territories surrounding it are, I believe, a mirror of sorts reflecting the fears, hope and condition of the world back on itself. We are accustomed to the limited success of the decades long struggle for peace in the Middle East centering on Jerusalem. Decades of searching are merely the most recent chapter in centuries of Jerusalem’s centrality to core meanings of three global faiths and the interests of many nations. Jerusalem has been been loved and fought over, with emotional commitment hard to explain, but always said to be for God and country. It is the holy of holies where God’s presence has been most fully displayed through God’s own words and deeds.
Jerusalem is also a place where humanity’s worst words and deeds have polluted every generation including our own. It is as if the city and region have been performing Ezekiel-like prophetic work century after century. Ezekiel, as you recall, was a prophet during the time of Judah’s Babylonian exile. With bizarre, crazy as a loon behavior, he acted out the sins, punishment, and the promise of eventual restoration of God’s people. Like a human mirror, he reflected back on captive Israelites the reality of who they were and how they had to change if God’s blessings were to be restored to them. It was not to be a restoration to the old ways but to entirely new ways of following where God was leading.
In like manner, Jerusalem and the Middle East are acting out the best and worst of the world’s reality. If peace is to come to the Middle East it is not Jerusalem that has to change but the people of God and the nations in which they live. For there to be peace between Jews and Arabs, nations must find ways to be at peace with each other. If we want Palestinians to stop being oppressed, nations must stop oppressing the most vulnerable of their own people. If we want Hamas and Hezbollah to cease violent terrorism, nations must stop tolerating the terrorism they so easily endorse. If we want the Kneset to stop brawling and Israeli prime ministers to be virtuous, nations must see to their own legislatures and presidents. If we want Israel, Gaza and the West Bank to be a holy delight to all Jews, Christians and Muslims, our own denominational feuding and interfaith suspicions must cease.
Then Jerusalem and the Middle East will reflect a new way of living together that we say we want but have been unwilling to risk. The nations of the world and their peoples have been playing a global game of Prisoners Dilemma, with predictable results. The cycle must be broken and it is religious leadership that must bend to the task of breaking it.
Can it happen? Three large, powerful and influential religions claim to worship the one merciful and just God. If the leaders of each can be more willing and dedicated to following the way God has bequeathed to them, they can create the momentum needed to produce a critical mass needed for change to happen.
Will it happen? The world has made incremental progress over the ages but its progress towards peace is hampered by greed, selfishness, lust for power, distrust and affection for violence as the easiest means to ends that can never be achieved. Habitual behavior is not easily broken.