Weeping for Jerusalem and its environs
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42)
In the Gospel of Luke stands on the edge of Jerusalem, looks over the city, and begins to weep for it, for it did not recognize what would make for peace. When Luke wrote this account, Jerusalem lay in ruins, it’s revolt against Rome having failed. For the early Christians Jesus’ vision of God’s realm stood in contrast with that of those who sought to gain freedom through violent rebellion. Down through the ages, Jerusalem and its environs have rarely seen peace, and peace is not yet at hand, as seen in the events of the past several days.
On Monday, despite warnings against making a move previous presidents thought better of, Donald Trump sent a delegation led by his daughter and son-in-law to open an embassy in Jerusalem.Also included in this group was a Baptist minister named Robert Jeffress, known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric and unabashed adoration of the President (he is a leading member of what John Fea calls the "Court Evangelicals."]. He was the person chose to offer the prayer of dedication. All of this led, as was expected, protests among Palestinians, especially in Gaza. Because of clashes at the border, more than sixty Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army, and more than 2000 have been injured. This move, while welcomed by some in Israel, and among some in the United States (especially evangelicals who are of a dispensationalist view), makes peace even more difficult. Unfortunately, the President does not seem to care, believing, it would seem, that he has some special powers of persuasion that can do for the Middle East what previous Presidents have not been able to do. I am personally ashamed, as an American, of the callousness of our representatives, especially regarding the killings of Palestinians.
Like many I am conflicted about the situation in Israel/Palestine. I understand the desire on the part of Jews to have a state of their own. I also understand the Palestinian resistance to planting a nation on land that was once theirs. For the past fifty years Palestinians have lived under Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank. There is no end to this in sight. In fact, we seem further away from a true solution now than before. Standing in the center of the conflict is Jerusalem, a city that is sacred to at least three religions. It is also claimed as capital by two peoples, both of whom seek self-determination. I pray for the peace of Jerusalem and its environs. With Jesus, I weep for those whose lives are continually lost, on both sides of the conflict.
This leads me back to American Christians who have pushed for a day such as this, not because of some love of the Jewish people, but because it fulfills prophesy. Diana Butler Bass wrote a column for CNN that spoke to the prophetic aspect of evangelical support for Israel. She remembers learning as a teenager, what I learned as a teenager, at church that God had a plan, and Jerusalem stood at the center of it. You see, she learned, as I learned, at a similar kind of church, that the rise of Israel served as a sign that Jesus was soon to return. She writes:
Jerusalem was our prophetic bellwether. God's plan hung on its fate. Whenever Israel gained more political territory, whenever Israel extended its boundaries, it was God's will, the end-times unfolding on the evening news. Jerusalem, as the spiritual heart of Israel, mattered. Jerusalem was God's holy city, of the ancient past, in its conflicted present, and for the biblical future. [“For Many Evangelicals, Jerusalem is about Prophecy not Politics.”]
I was a true believer back in the mid-1970s that Armageddon was near at hand, as I read Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. I beleived that the establishment of Israel was a harbinger of the millennium. We even practiced for the rapture (it's a long story). Like Diana, I am no longer an adherent of that viewpoint. But, like Diana, I understand its logic. Unfortunately, it might not be about politics, it influences politics. I don’t believe that Donald Trump is a true believer, but he has learned that it is important to his base. So, we moved the embassy, further destabilizing the area. So, with Jesus I weep for Jerusalem and its environs, praying that cooler heads will prevail. That will take, however, a turn to a more constructive theology on the part of Christians.