Sunday, August 21, 2005

An Eye for an Eye | 08/19/2005 | Presbyterian Church is unfair in targeting Israel for divestment -- free registration required

"...As a Presbyterian clergywoman with missionary roots in the Middle East, a strong commitment to human rights and peace, and a deep love of interfaith dialogue, I am dismayed and heartbroken by my denomination's actions regarding divestment. Not only has divestment, even "selective divestment,'' contradicted and undermined a half-century of the church's commitment to a two-state solution, it has seriously eroded a much-valued relationship with the Jewish community..."

The Rev. Rebecca Kuiken, Moderator of the San Jose Presbytery, makes a good point here. I have been increasingly uncomfortable with the disproportionate response of the PC(USA) to the violence in the Middle East. The quick condemnations of Israel for retaliating to terrorist attacks on their civilian population stand in stark contrast to the near silence when it comes to condemnation of the perpetrators of such terror.

It saddens me to see the "tit-for-tat" that characterizes the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, especially when Jesus offers a better way:

38"You have have heard that it was said 'Eye for eye and tooth for tooth'. 39But I tell you Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And of someone wants to sue you and take you tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

"43You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans to that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, even as you heavenly Father is perfect."

-- Matthew 5:38-48 NIV

In these two paragraphs Jesus mentions two things that were known to to the disciples and the others who were listening to what is commonly known as "The Sermon on the Mount". The first -- "Eye for eye and tooth for tooth" is found in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The second -- "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy" is nowhere to be found in Scripture, yet it was a commonly known saying of the time. James H. Charlesworth, in his book Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Doubleday, 1992), notes this, and suggests that it was an Essene teaching. A similar passage occurs in the scroll called The Rule of the Community. The Essenes in their day rivaled the Pharisees and Sadducees in their influence on Jewish thought, and Jesus may well have been countering Essene attitudes in this passage.

Jesus is not only removing revenge as an option, but is telling us to seek out those whom we hate, or those who hate us, and be reconciled to them. When one looks at the way Christians treat each other, this is one of many areas in which we all need to get our house in order. If we could accomplish that, we could be far more effective in setting an example to the world around us.

1 comment:

Apostle John said...

Great post -- it goes with some of the things I've been struggling with in my blog.