Lessons From Israel
Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Israel. How amazing to receive a firsthand education on the land and culture into which Jesus was born, lived, and ultimately died. We were amazed at the ways Scripture was brought to life for us as we walked Christ’s footsteps in the Holy Land.
On our trip, I was constantly reminded that Jesus’ life and message invite us into a unique way of seeing our world. I was profoundly impacted by Jesus’ response to the culture that He entered, and how radically revolutionary His ideas were.
For example, when Jesus started His ministry, the nation of Israel was under Roman domination. The Jews were persecuted mercilessly because they would not worship or bow down to Caesar, the Roman Emperor. The Jews were angry. If we are your chosen people, God, why have you abandoned us? Why are you allowing this persecution?
The Jewish zealots wanted to rise up and rebel against Rome. They wanted to take matters into their own hands through a holy war. When they did—every time—the Israelites were overtaken and, ultimately, thrown out of their country. In 313 AD, Jerusalem was renamed Palestine, and the Jews did not return to their land until 1947. Jesus never sided with the zealots and never taught their way of life.
On the opposite extreme of the zealots were the Essenes. They believed that the right response to Roman rule was to withdraw to the desert and live in extreme asceticism as “spiritual hermits.” Yet again, we can see through Jesus’ in-the-trenches style of ministry and outreach that His plan was never for us to simply run away from what’s happening around us.
I was reminded on our trip that Jesus’ message was to live a kingdom culture—to refrain from aggression and to refrain from escape. Instead, Jesus invites us to believe that He has already won and to rise up and serve humankind. These are Christ’s mandates: love, compassion, service, grace, truth.
Of course, as I’m reflecting on Jesus’ profound message of love-in-action, I can’t help but think about the work Bethany Christian Services is doing around the world. While we were in the Holy Land, we talked about and prayed for our efforts on the home-front and abroad, serving children and helping them find the love and support they need to flourish. I believe our work is a direct manifestation of the message Jesus was living.
I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians that encourage us as “God’s fellow workers in restoring the world.” That’s a beautiful concept. Christ came into this world to offer a different way. We no longer have to choose between raging or running. Instead, we have the opportunity to participate in restoration. Kingdom culture. I am forever grateful to our staff and supporters who, daily, live out this kingdom culture through the hands and feet of Bethany.
Written by Bill Blacquiere
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