I realize that even reading those three words is deeply offensive to so many people. I just googled the words “God loves Hamas,” and there were only six results. Six. On the entire internet. So I’m aware that it’s not a very popular sentiment. But before you skip ahead to the comments section and write with all the righteous anger inside of you, please do me a favor and read what I’ve written. It is short…
First, a parable: Imagine that a group of madmen runs into a school and starts shooting at police from the windows of the school–still filled with children. Then the police, aware of all the children in that school, decide to shell the school in an attempt to kill the madmen…. killing 16 civilians–mostly women and children–and wounding scores of others. Who is to blame for the deaths? Are the madmen to blame, or are the police?
The answer is yes. Yes, the madmen are to blame. Yes, the police are to blame. Yes.
And with the violence in Palestine, with these military attacks and the death, destruction, and humanitarian crisis that naturally follows, the world argues over whose “fault” it is. “They took our land!” “They struck first!” “They are oppressing us!” “They want us dead!” “WE ARE IN THE RIGHT!” But the fault in Gaza is not with one side or the other side…. The fault is in the very concept of sides. It is in the concept of revenge. It is in the concept of meeting violence with violence. It is in the very idea that those on the other side are so far beyond redemption that they don’t deserve to live. The great tragedy of war is not how many people die. The greater tragedy is how many people are willing to kill. We all die someday….
One side screams “HUMAN SHIELDS!” The other side rattles off statistics. Over 1800 dead, 400 dead kids, almost 250 dead women…. But even distinguishing these statistics is such a messed up, “seeing things the way the world sees them” way of looking at things. As if all the men who died had it coming. The world makes distinctions between killing the “guilty” and killing the innocent, but young or old, man or woman, they all leave behind people who love them. And without an intentional break in the cycle of violence, the ones left behind end up building on the hate that look the life of their loved one until it leads to even more suffering and death. And on and on and on….
But Jesus looked at a crowd of people and said, “You have heard it said….” And just like that crowd, we “hear it said” all the time. We hear it said every time Christians make a case for carrying around very effective killing tools just in case. We hear it said when Tennessee passes a law making the electric chair legal again, just in case we run out of the chemicals we need to kill people for killing people. We hear it said when pro-Israel and pro-Gaza people both make a case for why the other side deserves to die. We “have heard it said” every day. However, there is one who says, “But I tell you… Do not resist… Turn… Hand over… Go with them… Give… Love….” Imagine if the church started acting like Jesus actually meant that stuff. The spirit of the world cries out for vengeance, but the Spirit of God cries out for mercy.
And when the world sees that mercy in action, it recognizes it as something holy. Something special. Something beyond us. Our humanity recoils as we watch people demand blood for blood, but when we witness a broken person forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it, something deep in us resonates with the Spirit of God. The world has no choice but to see Jesus when they see his followers loving the seemingly unlovable. When we see the Pope washing feet of prisoners, we see Jesus. When we see a man fighting to save the life of the woman who murdered his grandmother, we see Jesus. We are called to love our enemies. Why? Because God loves them, and we are called to be like God. Even Fred Phelps? Especially Fred Phelps. Even the Boston Bombers? Especially the Boston Bombers. And this is why I love Palestine. And this is why I love Israel. And this is why I even love Hamas. Because I believe that God Loves Hamas. Just like God loved Assyria when he sent Jonah to Nineveh. God love us–ALL OF US–and he really wants us to learn how to love each other.
Many of us would love to have a God who hates the same people we hate, but that’s not what we have. It’s easy to look at our enemies and decide they are just evil–and there might be some truly evil folks out there–but I believe that for the most part, people aren’t evil. Actions are evil. People are just deceived. What would happen if instead of thinking of people as evil, we thought of them as people who have believed a lie? How would that change how we treated them? Jesus referred to himself as “The Truth.” We do not spread The Truth by killing the people who have believed a lie. The world takes the side of Israel or the world takes the side of Gaza, but the Church is not the world. The Church has a Third Way. Our place is not to decide which side is more justified in killing the other–Our place is to work to end suffering, and to call humanity back to its senses. And this is important: Our place is not to simply stay out of it either–Even when we say nothing, our silence speaks very loudly. Oh Church–Let us bravely and lovingly proclaim this third way to a world who desperately needs to hear it!