The Dividing Line

Like everyone else in the world, I read the news from Israel with shock. How one of the world’s most elite military and intelligence forces failed to avert this tragedy is hard to fathom. The news is gruesome and surreal; we’re watching the inevitable and the prophetic unfold.

While we were busy watching baseball, watching children, or fuming at the clownish disarray of our own government, a demarcation glowed in Israel. Every phone, every television, and every newspaper lit up and brought tiny, archeological Israel to the forefront of conflict in one modern, yet very ancient, moment.

The gruesome acts of cruel terror had their galvanizing effect. Suddenly, the world doesn’t linger in the imaginary political middle, and religious war isn’t confined to far-off tribes. Even here in America, where our military leaders are enthralled by transgenderism and electric tank fantasies, we suddenly realize that ancient history’s deepest fissures have not been repaired by the urging of far-off diplomats or clever interfaith services.

With astonishing clarity, the Israeli tragedy brought two warring camps into stark relief, gathering sympathies to their poles on either side of an invisible line. The birds of one feather gathered to subtly—or not so subtly— blame Israel, while those with some remaining shred of humanity gathered across the way.

I’m no expert on Arab-Israeli conflicts and their long history of boundary disputes. Although modern Middle Eastern dramas can’t be entirely traced to ancient boundary lines, that surely is a big part of their story. But they can, like all human conflict— which begins in the heart—be traced to one kind of border dispute.

For a believer, Israel’s history teaches us about God’s character. God pursues, disciplines and defends the children of Israel, rescuing them when they wander off into idolatry and disbelief. Jews play a central and surprising role in the redemption story. For Christians, despite theological debate over its modern application, the nation of Israel has both symbolic and prophetic importance.

Even for nonbelievers, though, a dividing line streaks through Israel, where the world’s religions and superpowers inexplicably now converge. This unlikely little nation, surrounded as it is by bloodthirsty enemies, continues to be a flashpoint, much as it was when Jesus walked in Galilee.

Jesus came to battle for a Kingdom, but not for the Jewish one. He marked out a different boundary line with his outrageous claim, ”I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” Since that time, people are drawn to one side or the other of this transcendent line. Not all are drawn to the faith itself, of course, but they warm to the light and the worldview that recognizes evil in all its ugly forms.

Most of us, on one side of the demarcation, were sickened by the graphic descriptions of Hamas brutality—murdered babies, beheadings, and the crude display of a partially naked female captive. We can’t imagine a scenario in which a civilian music festival makes a legitimate occasion for bloody revenge. We gasped at vulgar demonstrations of glee; most of us mourned the bloody terror heaped on little ones, young parents, and grandmothers.

And yet, among us, but across the invisible line, there are those quietly smiling at this evil.

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