In Pastor Jeff's Blog

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. – Matthew 5:9

When I heard that our government had decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move our embassy there, I reached out to my friend and colleague, Pastor John Holm. John has served in the West Bank numerous times as a human rights and peace activist, partnering with Palestinian, Israeli, and International activist seeking peace in Israel and Palestine. I invited him to be a guest blogger this week to share his perspective:

On December 6th, President Trump made the decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This move contradicts decades of international policy that has sought to keep a “shared Jerusalem.” In the original UN partition plan and in all subsequent UN resolutions, the clarity of what a shared Jerusalem would look like in a two-state solution was always seen as pivotal to any complete and overarching peace plan to the wider Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

This action is simply following the approach that believes that it is through power over others that we will reduce violence, that subjugation is the way to peace.  Israel itself has followed this modus operandi since 1948. They have forcefully taken land, property, and freedom from the Palestinians by force, and then they are surprised when violence is given in return. Six decades of suffering and violence have been the result. Peace has not come. Thus, this forced unilateral decision by the US and Israel will only move the Holy Land farther from the goal of peace and more deeply into disillusionment and diminished hopes that all the people, both Israelis and Palestinians could live in peace.

Many in the Christian Evangelical community are overjoyed in this move by our President. They believe that Jesus will not return until Jerusalem is under Israeli control and the temple is rebuilt. Thus, any means in which this can happen is something that they see as good, no matter what the cost. But this is very questionable theology and even worse Biblical interpretation.

So, what is the solution? If power over others has not brought us any closer to peace in the last 6 decades, what are the things that will make for peace? As followers of Jesus, I believe it begins by proclaiming and living out the reality that all peoples are created in the image and likeness of God. It is remembering that when Jesus died on the cross he drew all people to himself. Peace with one another can never come through unilateral actions of might but only through relationships of mutuality that include confession, forgiveness, respect, and grace, all of which Jesus participates in with and through us.

Jesus always engaged others in ways that first and foremost honored them as children of God, spoke truth with love, and then always embodied grace to bring healing and wholeness to people and to relationships. He rejected unilateral acts of using his power over others. Instead, he always used his power on behalf of those who suffered. We are called to do the same. It is seeking a future of hope for all, not just for some. It is the way of the cross.

John Holm serves as pastor at St. Mary’s Lutheran Church in Kenosha, WI

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