Attentiveness: No Statement
“When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved” (John 11:32-33). This scenario, I believe, captures the heart of our Lord in the midst of the current tragic, chaotic, and violent situation in the Middle East.
Last week we posted a call to prayer and lament and promised an upcoming statement.
We have no official statement as we continue to listen.
During the past week, I have spoken and listened to a local rabbi and a local imam, as well as to leaders from Egypt, Israel, and Gaza—leaders who are Jewish-Christians and Palestinian Christians living in Israel or in exile from Palestinian lands.
What have I learned? There is anger. There is pain.
What became clear is that what is happening is not a typical cycle of violence. I heard a Jewish leader, Christian leaders, and a Muslim leader say everyone has blood on their hands. This is very, very complex. Simple solutions will not help.
Let me simply ask for us to listen carefully and begin by listening to some of these comments I heard from the Middle East:
- “There is a war and there is a war for the narrative.”
- “People are hurting. Death is all around.”
- “I am fed up with Christian statements that think they are helping when they hurt us. I don’t want to hear another evangelical statement.”
- “Christian and especially evangelical statements make me angry.”
- “We, Jews, have not experienced anything like this since the Holocaust.”
- [From an Imam] “Thank you for reaching out to me. I will send you my statement to our community saying that what is happening is not according to our sacred scriptures.”
- “We are in lockdown in Bethlehem.”
- “What we see from the West is weaponizing faith.”
- “There is too much zero-sum thinking.”
- “The grief is profound . . . we must seek for another way forward.”
- “Gaza is the largest open-air prison in the world.”
- “It is so complicated.”
It is time to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19-20). It is time to pray for God to raise up peacemakers during this period of extreme violence and chaos. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). We need children of God at this time.
Dr. Scott W. Sunquist, President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is author of the “Attentiveness” blog. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.