Experiencing the Story of God: Old and New
Before attending the Just
Peacemaking course, I had previously spent extensive time walking in the
footsteps of Jesus as I studied the historical and geographical contexts of
Jesus in Israel and Palestine.
While the historical context of the Story of God is fascinatingly sacred,
what most captivated me was the study and experience of the current Story of
God as is being played out in the socio-political realities of modern Israel
and Palestine. With
that said, when the opportunity arose to walk alongside and engage in both the
Israeli and Palestinian narratives under the leadership of Dr. Stassen and his
networks domestically and in the Middle East, I jumped on it.
So often, academia can
fall victim to being removed from the everyday realities they seek to engage
intellectually and practically. My
time on this trip was a dynamic integration of intellectual learning and
practical experience. Just
Peacemaking proposes a third way of resolving conflict. Rather than accepting theories of Just
War or extreme forms of Pacifism, Just Peacemaking seeks to step into the
center of conflict with the “weapon” of transforming initiatives that are
rooted in the teachings of Jesus. Rejecting violence or withdrawal, the
strategy constructs initiatives which foster reconciliation that end cycles of
Whether meeting with
members of Israeli Parliament or sitting in conference rooms with Palestinian
dignitaries, we were constantly exposed to the practical realities of a region
in conflict. As we listened to both
the Israeli and Palestinian narratives - through myriad voices and experiences
- we were able to construct and evaluate new initiatives that would potentially
lead to peace.
Most importantly, we were
able to enter the human stories of those in Israel and Palestine. Whether listening to the Jewish women
who lost loved ones in the Holocaust or the Palestinian man whose father was
murdered by the Israeli Defense Force, we engaged on a human level with those who
daily endure a life of tension and anxiety. Prayers of petition at sacred sites such as Hebron (home of
the Tomb of the Patriarchs) were no longer for the re-living of ancient
stories, but for the modern story to once again be restored to the Shalom of
Yahweh. In moments like these
there was a collision of the palpable modern tensions with the ceaseless
yearnings for peace instilled in humanity from the beginning of time.
I have never experienced
learning in such a dynamic context.
While I gained invaluable knowledge through study and discussion, in the
end, I learned the most by standing in solidarity with the hurting and
oppressed; whether emotionally or physically. The Kingdom life was not something proposed in a lecture, it
was something we were each invited into with each step deeper into the stories
of all God’s children on both sides of the Separation Wall.