Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Lament for Lebanon

Pray for the children of Abraham.

I, as you, have watched in horror this week as pictures emerged from the latest fighting in Lebanon. The heirs of Abraham are once again at war. The sons of Ishmael (the Muslims) and the sons of Isaac (the Jews), each with their own logic and fierce rhetoric, are hard at work trying to destroy the other. Would to God—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, yes, and the God of Ishmael, too (see Genesis 21:12-21)—that it were not so.

I am no student of modern geopolitics. When it comes to “the ways of the world,” I guess I am about as naïve as they come. But I am a student of scripture and I know a least a little concerning the ways and purposes of God—and I am persuaded that no matter how often or passionately these or any of the worlds’ various combatants invoke the blessing or “will of God,” God neither intends nor honors the killing of children. Of that, at least, I am sure. And if the killing of any one nation’s children is a horror never to be forgotten, we must remember with anguish and repentance the deaths of all children.

I keep wishing that the heirs of Abraham would be quick to follow his example. Do you remember that time when Abraham (or Abram as he was called then) and his nephew lot were coming up from Egypt into the Negeb (to the south of Judah). Both men were rich, having herds and servants and much gold. It soon became apparent that they were richer than the land—that is, the land was not able to support the both of them. And there were others peoples in the area as well, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. All told, there were too many sheep and not enough grass, too many mouths and not enough water. And so it was that there was “strife” between the servants of Abram and the servants of Lot (not to mention the Canaanites and Perizzites).

Abram, bless his heart, surveyed the situation and uttered immortal words: “Let there be no strife between you and me, between your headsmen and my herdsmen: for we are kin.” To Abram, family and peace were more to be fought for than any land, even if that meant surrender, and so he said to his nephew, “Take what you want and I will make do with the rest.” That is just the way it happened: Lot, his family and servants, journeyed to the fertile area near the Jordan River, in the precincts of Sodom, while Abram took the dryer and more inhospitable land called Canaan.

Abram ceded land for the sake of peace. It may be an oversimplified and naïve hope that his heirs on both sides of the family tree might find a way to do the same. But as I look at the pictures of the dead—children, women, old men—I have wondered this: what price “security”? Tell me: who made “survival” the greatest good? And I have wondered why none of the children of Abram are willing to invoke the old man now and say, “Let there be no strife between us, for we are kin.”

Why we are so quick to forget how Jesus—another child of Abraham so that we who follow him are likewise—said that his disciples are those who love their enemies, who willingly lay down their lives for others? But how very different that looks from so many of the pictures we’ve seen.

1 comment:

R.G. said...

Great post, Tom. I always feel so bad that I can never really keep up with all the goings-on in the Middle East. It always seems so complicated (or maybe its simplicity eludes me) and it just feels like it's been going on forever. It feels so hopeless to me.

I do know just a tiny bit about the Bible, however, and it does make the problems in the east look simpler when I look at them through the lens of what I know from Scripture. Indeed, the sons of Ishmael and Isaac are still fighting, and it makes me sad beyond expression. I have often found myself thinking, why, oh, why did Abram accept Sarai's offer of Hagar? Why did Sarai have to offer in the first place? If only, if only. If only we all had faith so strong we would never have to make a mistake like that.

How is this all supposed to end, Tom? It feels so hopeless to me. I cannot imagine that after these millenia have passed since Abraham walked the earth, that suddenly his heirs are going to decide to follow his example. What is going to happen? Will it ever end? Or will Jesus come first?