Freedom in the Middle East? One of the first things I do in the morning is to check news headlines. I was out of the country during the month of June and I’m trying to catch up with the latest happenings. Interestingly enough, the latest happenings are happening in the country I visited.
I recently returned from Israel. I traveled with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and helped run sports clinics in Bethlehem, Jericho, Ramallah and Jerusalem. This was my fifth trip to the Holy Land but my first stay in the West Bank. It was also my first time to see the conflict from a Palestinian perspective.
It’s hard to understand, especially for Americans. Freedom is a way of life for us. We can travel anywhere we want, any time we want. We can study and pursue any career we choose. If we run out of something, we go to the store and stock up. If something breaks, we replace it.
Some of us remember to conserve resources. We turn off the lights when we leave a room, install water-saving shower heads and buy energy-efficient appliances. When we “go green” it’s because we decide to, not because we have to.
My Middle Eastern friends can’t imagine the freedoms we enjoy in America; particularly my friends in the West Bank. They have a controlled supply of water and electricity. Their travel is restricted and their educational opportunities are limited.
They also can’t imagine the peace we have within our borders. Yes, we Americans bicker and argue over politics and the economy, but we don’t worry about warfare breaking out within 100 miles of our homes. We can’t imagine army tanks rolling through our city streets, and most of us have never been through a traffic stop manned by soldiers carrying AK-47 rifles.
Tensions are high between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but it’s important to remember there are good and not-so-good people on both sides.
Since Psalm 122:6 commands us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, it’s natural for Christians to side with the Israelis.
But Paul reminded us to pray for something else.
Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored… (2 Thess 3:1)
Paul reported to the Colossians that, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing…” (Colossians 1:6), and I saw that firsthand in Palestine.
Those brothers and sisters in Christ face danger every day, as do the missionaries who serve in Palestine. They may not enjoy the national freedoms we do, but they enjoy spiritual freedom in Christ Jesus.
As the headlines jolt you awake each morning and you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, broaden that prayer to include the spread of the Gospel. And for freed hearts on every side.