Conflict Resolution 101

As the Israel Director of Caspari Center, I have the privilege and joy of speaking regularly to Christians from the nations who come to Israel and are eager to meet Israeli Messianic Jews. Without exception, every group I meet asks questions about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the prospects for its near resolution. This is quite understandable: after all, the conflict does exist, Messianic Jews are involved in it, and the worldwide body of Christ is entitled to know our view of the situation.

newmuslimheidi-optRecalling many such meetings, I am particularly reminded of one that took place a few months ago. Like the majority of our foreign visitors, the group was from Scandinavia, and after my presentation of Caspari Center’s work I opened the time for questions and answers. Sure enough, there was a hand raised, and I was asked about Jewish sentiments toward Arabs. More specifically, this visitor was unpleasantly surprised to find that the average Jew on a Jerusalem street is not necessarily overflowing with love for his Arab neighbors. After all, she reasoned, isn’t a Jew commanded to love his neighbor, do justice, and seek peace? Why, then, do some religious Jews fail in this area?

My dear sister in Christ was clearly disappointed, so I asked her in turn: “You believe that the Jews need the gospel, don’t you?” She answered in the affirmative. I continued, “In other words, you believe that Jews are sinners who need a Savior, like all people?” Again she said yes. My next question was, “Isn’t it natural for sinners to hate their enemies?” Since the answer was obvious, I went on: “Wouldn’t you, a Christian, be at least tempted to hate your enemy, if you were in our situation? Of course, you would. Now, if loving the enemy is a challenge even for you, a Christian, why do you expect that from a sinner? Why do you expect a Jewish sinner to be holier than a non-Jewish one? Aren’t you judging the Jews by a different standard?”

The woman smiled and said, “Yes, we do hold the Jews to a higher standard.” I almost wanted to applaud her. Sadly, too few Christians are willing to admit that they follow this worldly trend of having a double standard: one for the Jews, another for the rest of the world. I pray that my sister will take the next step and recognize this double standard as sin.

The Law of Moses does command a Jew to love the neighbor as oneself, but who is the neighbor? In Judaism, it’s first and foremost, although not exclusively, a fellow Jew. (And by the way, the New Testament retains this principle: “. . .let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith”; Gal. 6:10, emphasis mine.) It was Jesus who radically redefined the “neighbor” in the parable of the Good Samaritan by including a non-Jew and even an enemy. But we, his followers, are funny: our own failure to obey the Master’s commandment doesn’t stop us from imposing it on non-believers or being disappointed by their failures.

It seems to me that for someone interested in conflict resolution, that’s too many conflicting ideas in the same head. How about we take the plank out of our own eye before offering to remove a speck from our neighbor’s? They say the operation not only relieves pain but also improves vision.

Alexander Goldberg