I’ve been learning this lesson slowly over what feels like a long time now.
It’s much more difficult to argue an issue when you’ve loved the people behind that issue. It is practically impossible to take sides in a war when you have met people affected by the war.
Take Israel and Palestine, for example. The social, economic, political, ethnic, religious, geographic and historical tensions surging and surfacing in the recent spilling over of conflict between these two nation-states (I believe we can consider Palestine as such, after the UN’s recognition of it recently?) are enormous and unmanageable and almost inexplicable. It’s all just so much to understand, to consider when taking sides. Supremely rational and thoughtful posts like this one from Pastor Jonathan Martin are helpful for Jesus-followers seeking to understand the issue.
But I read about a Californian food writer and cookbook author baking bread with an Arab woman in Nazareth and this one woman, with her olive skin and love for fresh yogurt and skilled bread-making hands, comes alive to me. She and I are pretty different, to be sure. But we’re also much the same. We love to feed our families, to participate in nourishing and sustaining them for their days’ work. She probably knows exactly how her husband likes his food prepared, as I am learning about mine. She’s a woman, with loves and fears and dreams and plans, like me.
Now the issue has a face. The war is the backdrop to this woman’s life. And I no longer want to argue about taking sides, but just to stand for peace. Which is kind of what Martin was saying. And is also captured in this comment:
“…the more we see each other as individuals and recognize what we have in common, the harder it becomes to justify hatred and violence…” (originally quoted here)
I need to get out more.
I need to live beside and alongside people who are very different than I am and learn who they are and catch glimpses of our shared humanness. I need to be careful with my tongue and look for the true humanity rising above all argument over issues before I speak my opinions. I need to feel confused sometimes and admit that I don’t know the answer and ask questions to understand. I need to be brave to change my mind when I realize I’ve taken sides against people, other human people just like me.