Volumes have been written throughout the course of history detailing who is and is not one’s neighbor. Or to use different words, who do I need to be nice too? And who can I hate and belittle as an enemy and still make it into heaven?
We want to know – we want to have firm rules that help peg people into nice little boxes. Boxes of friends, co-workers, family, folks-to-be-nice-too, jerks, those-who-I-wish-was-dead, and so-on-and-so-on.
Yet across this us-versus-them desire runs the clear words of Jesus:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” –Matthew 5:43-48
Clear words….we are to love and bless both those who love us and those who hate us; those who do us good and those who harm us; those who like us and those who do not.
It is this heart – the heart to love and bless people – that motivated Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis to set out on a journey across the Middle East to meet with “some unique and influential personalities who most in the United States, including the government, think of as enemies who belong on Most Wanted list.”
They wanted to ask them simple questions about their lives – what did they like? Dislikes? Did they have a favorite movie or jokes? – in an effort to get to know them as fellow humans created in the image of the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
“Tea With Hezbollah” is a travelogue of this journey through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Damascus, and Jerusalem. Along the way they met with a variety of people including Islamic scholars, leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah, Bedouin princes, Palestinians, and more. They even tracked down a descendant of the group immortalized by Jesus in His famous story of being a good neighbor – yes, they had tea with a Samaritan.
I know that in writing this post there is a chance that I will be labeled and boxed away into a pigeon hole somewhere – but the world as we know it is not simple. If we are going to follow Jesus we must remember and physical live His words to love and bless everyone.
To me, the first step towards this is to try to get to know my neighbors in the Middle East – to hear their stories and learn about their dreams, likes and dislikes – to see them not through the eyes of the news media, but to see them as Jesus see them.
A hard task…one filled with potholes and pitfalls….one that may puts me at odd with the popular cultural that seeks an ‘enemy’ to destroy….yet if my Lord can love and forgive those who physically tortured Him, then through His Spirit I can love and bless those in the Middle East whom I may never see.