In May 2012, I had the opportunity to visit Israel and Palestine. If you ever get the chance to visit, do it! The land is breathtaking, and I gained a whole new appreciation for the Bible. But I also saw a side to the region that left me disheartened—a side that’s far from picturesque.
I saw both Israelis and the Palestinians living in constant tension. There were daily conflicts, some that unfortunately turned violent, and it made me wonder, “Why does this keep happening?” As I talked with our guides and other acquaintances, I learned that the issues are far from simple. Some argue it’s an issue of land; others say it’s about political power; other’s claim it’s racism. Needless to say, what’s going on the in the Middle East will not be solved overnight or through human strength and ingenuity alone. In an ironic twist, the land that has been the centerstage for God’s story for thousands of years, now needs God’s love and peace more than ever.
By God’s grace, I remember feeling a sense of hope for the region when our team celebrated communion at a small church in Jerusalem. The church consisted of both Israelis and Palestinians, all united under the love and grace of Jesus.
At the close of the service, the pastor led the congregation in taking the bread and the cup. Not only was this is a powerful moment to remember the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, but it also displayed how at the cross, we are one in Christ. The cross reminds us we are all sinners saved by grace. No matter our heritage, background, personality, or nationality, the cross unites us as one body.
In fact, in communion, we see Jesus’ work on the cross for so many reasons. He saved us. He united us. He redeemed us. He loved us. He forgave us. And now he invites us to bring others into that amazing story. And those we invite can’t be just the people who look like us or talk like us.
So it begs the question: Do I celebrate the differences in those around me or am I skeptical of people with different opinions, ideologies, or preferences? Because communion invites us to remember that no matter how different we are, at the cross we are united in Christ. Our differences are important, but if not understood properly, they can also lead to the unhealthy divisiveness we see in the Middle East and even in our own political system.
So here’s our challenge: When we celebrate communion next at River Valley, let’s thank God for the amazing work of the cross. But let’s also thank Him for the unity and peace he brings to our church, because as Christians, we are all one in Christ, no matter how different we might be.
3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
Ephesians 4:3-4 (NLT)