A Challenging Encounter
Last week I had a very interesting encounter with guests who came to see the offices where I work. After the usual superficial introductions, the conversation turned to questions about who they were and why and what they were doing in the country. Slowly their story began to unfold. They were Christians and were newly married; having come to Israel for their honeymoon. They came on a tour and had planned to stay for the three-month period that their tourist visas allowed and investigate what life in Israel was like. They thought about going to a kibbutz but were told they were over the age limit for volunteers. By chance they met some other travelers from their home country and at their recommendation ended up volunteers on an illegal Orthodox Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
I swallowed my reactions to this piece of information as they continued on with saying how blessed they were to be supporting the importance of Jews returning to claim and build up their land. During the conversation they alluded to the fact that these struggling settlers had had to deal with the Israeli military who wanted them off the land and their Arab neighbors who strongly objected to the presence of this illegal settlement on their land.
Throughout the time as I sat and listened to their story, in my mind, I was having a running conversation with the Lord. It went something as follows:
Me: “Lord you know how I feel about this. What they’re doing is ILLEGAL not to mention their support of usurping lands that belong to the local indigenous population, etc. etc.”
The Lord: “Yes, be still and listen. Whatever your opinions are these too are my followers.”
Me: “Alright Lord, I’ll listen and not respond.”
The Lord: “I am a God of blessing and love.”
Me: “OK then, show how me how I can honor them in spite of the fact that I totally disagree with what they’re doing and think they are wrong and they’re certainly not doing your will. How can I possibly affirm and bless these people who are so outrageously misguided?”
The Lord: “Can you hear their heart to ‘help and support’ struggling people, to show my love through their actions?”
Me: “Yes Lord, I hear their motivation, but Lord they are so wrong in what they are doing.”
The Lord: “It’s not your place to judge them. That’s in my hands.”
Me: “Yes, Lord.”
I consider myself to be “open minded” and one of my guiding principles in relationships is to be one who builds and blesses. I was being tested and this was a rather large challenge. As I struggled with myself and the Lord, I’m grateful for his patience. He faithfully reminded me that first, regardless of differences, disagreements and all the things that divide us as people, ALL, without exception, are created in the image of God and are worthy of respect. Second, he gave me the grace to withhold my censure of their opinions and actions and let me see their heart to be a blessing to people, that their lives be a witness of his love.
As my silent conversation with the Lord continued I found my heart softening and my opinions receding into the back ground. I began to hear the heart of this idealistic young couple. I still think they are misguided but somehow it matters less than keeping my heart open to be able to fully bless even those with whom I so radically disagree.
As a postscript, following the conversation with the couple, we had a time of prayer together. At the end of the prayer, the young man turned and thanked me for honoring him and his wife. I could only thank the Lord that, despite my struggle, he allowed me to somehow communicate his grace.