Choices: Now what?

by | Oct 15, 2023

A high-rise tower hit by Israeli forces in Gaza City, October 2023 Credit: Ashraf Amra / Reuters

War in the Middle East is sadly becoming a cliché. But the horror suffered by victims when brutally attacked this past Saturday is not just another senseless attempt at harassing Israel. Hundreds died during a coordinated attack by a political group known as Hamas.

United Methodist Bishop Alan Bard distributed a letter this past week calling for prayer. I’m grateful for the Bishop’s recognition of the complex politics between Israel and Palestine. Any summary of the circumstances leaves out critical details.

Most countries, making up the United Nations, recognize Palestine as an independent nation state. Israel’s military presence in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem makes peace harder to achieve.

The history of how the modern State of Israel came about adds fuel to the fire. The history of the Holy Land, which birthed three of the world’s mort popular religions, further blurs the border between right and wrong.

There can never be a justification for such a heinous act of aggression. Yet, the perpetrators can and will offer a litany of justifications.

I will never forget my visit to Israel and the West Bank. What I saw and heard from clergy and ordinary people left a lasting impression on my soul. I hoped to find a stronger connection with my Lord and Savior, and I did. But the crux of my stronger connection was to share a broken heart.

I have no right or interest in condemning other people. Even those with whom I disagree or those whose actions I condemn. With one exception.

Whenever God’s will is invoked as a justification for violence, oppression or hatred, I feel called to take a stand. While I don’t have a say in their salvation, anyone who blames God for violence condemns themselves. But I am also convinced that nothing can separate any of us from the love of God.

Our beliefs have great power over the choices we make. So how we choose to interpret God’s will matters a great deal. However, our common humanity makes us vulnerable to temptations to make choices that are contrary to God’s will.

But there is good news. Matthew tells a story, nearly identical to what we find in Mark and Luke, that highlights the humanity of Jesus. God understands and loves us, anyway.

Jesus went into the wildness after His baptism, where He faced three temptations. Each of them sought to exploit His human weakness. Of course, Jesus chose not to succumb to temptation.

You and I are not Jesus. He was both human and divine. We’re just human with limited power to just say no. Particularly when we can rationalize that God is on the side we believe is right. Whatever divinity we possess is a gift of God’s Holy Spirit and grace.

All this I will give you, if you kneel down and worship me. Jesus answered, Go away… scripture says, Worship God and serve only him!
Matthew 4:1-11

Knowing that Jesus resisted temptations that none of us c an resist affirms that God has power over all evil. God’s will prevails despite whatever catastrophes we bring on ourselves and others.

This means that no matter how hard any of us try to circumvent God’s will, we never get our way when it isn’t God’s Way. Violence isn’t justifiable and never ends well for the perpetrator.

It’s complicated. I cannot criticize Israel’s responding with tremendous and deadly military power. I certainly couldn’t claim I wouldn’t do likewise.

But there is a voice buried deep in my soul that reminds me to leave God out of it when we make choices to harm others. Fortunately, God understands and loves us, anyway.

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Pastor Tommy


Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by Angela Hunt. A Woman of Words. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2021.

Kali Robinson. “What is Hamas” © Council on Foreign Relations, October 9, 2023. Retrieved from: link

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