The following article is part of our ongoing effort to provide a variety of Christian perspectives on the Israel-Lebanon conflict.
Is war ever justified? Why is there so much suffering and loss of innocent life? Who is right and who is wrong in the ongoing conflict in the Middle East? There are many questions and few answers. Yes, we would like to make it simple, identify what is "right" and stand on that side. Reality, however, is messy.
I live on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, between Tel Aviv and Haifa, and am, for the time being, out of direct range of the missiles falling north of me. But I do hear the planes and helicopters roaring overhead at all hours. They wake me in the night, and I know they are traveling north to rain bombs on Lebanonon border villages, Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, the Bakaa Valley. When I call my friends in the northern city of Haifa to see how they are, I hear sirens sounding in the background.
Daily my heart is burdened unto tears with the pain, trauma, and suffering in this region. Hundreds dead, thousands wounded, hundreds of thousands of people uprooted. I do not divide the numbers. We are allIsraelis and Lebanese, Jews and Arabsgoing through this together. Everyone is suffering, and to try to compare the suffering of individuals or groups is not only impossible, it is also futile. Suffering is intensely subjective, and it is decidedly personal. My suffering leads me to pray, all the while listening to the news knowing I will never hear the whole story. Above all I try to hear God's heart for the people on both sides of the conflict.
Much has been written about the magnitude of suffering in Lebanon and Israel. War is what it is. It's never sanitary and selective. Always civilians are casualtieschildren, women, the elderly, the handicapped, and the poor who have no options but to remain in targeted areas. Whole populations are uprooted, and others are living in crowded shelters where they are still not always safe.
We all identify with our own people, especially when they are under threat and suffering. Identities are complex and shifting but basic elements remain unchangedthe commonality of our humanity is one of these constants. I am a human being, created in the image of God, just like every other person in the world. I am also a Messianic Jew and an Israeli and have worked for many years in ministries of reconciliation between Jews and Arabs in Israel. My brothers and sisters are suffering, wounded, and perhaps even dying on both sides of the border.
Is this war just? If so, for whom? These are questions that I do not ask. As a committed follower of God and his Son, my task is to pray and to actively do God's will. And pray I do for his purposes to be accomplished in the Middle East. War does not alter what has always been clear: God loves all people equally, and his will is for all men everywhere to come to him. As God's people in the Middle East, our responsibility is to work and pray for this. Our voices need to be heard calling our peoples to repentance. We should be the first to give aid, alleviate suffering wherever we can, and above all share the Good News of the gospel with all.
I am in contact with many people in the north of Israel, brothers and sisters who have lived for weeks in crowded bunkers and bomb shelters, and I have dozens of brothers who are in the Israeli army in active combat duty. I also have contact with Christians in Lebanon. They all say the same thing, "Pray that we will be a strong testimony to the gospel of Jesus in the midst of the surrounding devastation. Pray for all who are suffering, regardless of where they live." Again and again I hear the same cry coming from God's people on both sides of the conflict.
There are signs of hope, and if our eyes are open, we can see them like small roadside flowers. Messianic congregations are sending aid to Christian Arabs in the north, a Christian Palestinian ministry center in the Bethlehem area has opened its doors to Jewish believers from the north of Israel, groups of Jewish and Arab believing young people are together in reconciliation-based camps and conferences in Norway, Holland, Burundi, Finland, and elsewhere.
It is easy to sit in the United States or in Europe and pass judgment on the situation, to blame Israel for brutally overacting, to see Hezbollah as evil incarnate, and to miss the opportunity to do what God desires. Extremism and polarization make much better press than small grassroots activities that bring people together. Let us be the first to pray, to give aid, to weep with those who weep, and to mourn with those who mourn. Let us be about our Father's business, calling men to repentance, reconciling men to God, and reconciling men to men at all times and in all places.
Lisa Loden is managing director of the Caspari Center in Jerusalem and co-founder of Beit Asaph Messianic Congregation in Netanya. As with all "Speaking Out" articles, the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of Christianity Today.
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This article is one in a series of commentaries on the Hezbollah-Israel conflict.