God Always Takes a Side
Beloved in Christ,
In 2015, I had a chance to meet with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Middle East. I was with a group of Anglican cathedral deans from the U.S. and Canada, and I was surprised he was willing to meet with us. He holds one of the most important offices in the Christian world, and we represented a very small sliver of that global family.
As we talked with him, it became clear he was willing to meet with us because, while the conflict in the Middle East is principally between Jews and Muslims, the Arab Christians living in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories are often forgotten altogether by people in the West. Listening to his description of the massive hardships they face every day, and their courageous commitment to the way of Jesus in the very place where Jesus himself walked among us, changed my perspective on the region forever.
Like all of you, I have watched the devastating violence that has erupted in Israel and Palestine in the past week with tears of both heartbreak and anger, and a feeling of utter helplessness. I grieve and wail for those on all sides who have been killed or taken hostage, and for their loved ones. I am also sick with fear for those who live in Gaza, whose lives were already unimaginably hard, and who now face violent retaliation and siege which will make it even harder to meet basic physical needs in the months and years to come. Among those are some of our sister and brother followers of Jesus. That doesn’t make their lives any more valuable, of course, but does draw us into even closer bonds with their suffering in these hours.
It’s important to bear in mind that the conflict erupting again this week is not because two religious groups simply can’t tolerate one another. It is the result of the complex ways that the historic trauma suffered by two ethnic groups intersect with one another on a very small piece of land, and the massive injustices and oppression that are structured into how they are living together. The God of Abraham doesn’t play favorites, of course, but God always takes a side. That side never conforms to the lines we draw, but is always the side of the poor, the grieving, the suffering, the oppressed, and the forgotten. God’s heart breaks, and God can be found with those in every corner of the current conflict. I hope you will join me in crying out to God in these hours for all those grieving and suffering, with whom we share a common ancestor, and with whom we look in hope to the same God’s promise. As the psalmist implores us, “Pray for peace of Jerusalem. May they prosper who love you.” (122:6)
Grace and peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya