Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Where is "The Promised Land"?

There is yet another layer in the multilayered set of issues surrounding Israel and Palestine I find personally compelling. It is one thing to argue politics, or spin history (people "a" were "here first" vs. people "b" were "here for a thousand years" or whatever...)

From a Christian point of view, and even from a psychological point of view, where is the promised land?

Something strange happens between the Old and New Testaments. The idea of a promised land, a kingdom, moves from being a temporal kingdom on earth to being an eternal kingdom which, as Jesus says before his crucifixion "is not of this world." He calls it "the kingdom of heaven" rather than the kingdom of Israel. And while some wait for him to overthrow earthly authorities and re-establish earthly Jerusalem in mighty acts of power against Rome, he instead moves toward the humiliation and death that once and for all redefine everything.

As Luke 17:20,21 shows us, the kingdom moves from being external to internal ("the kingdom of heaven is within you" [NIV]) and/or from being a piece of real estate to being God-with-us ("the kingdom of God is among you").

Even the Old Testament agrees with this apparently radical reformulation of meaning far more than one might initially think. Over and over again, Jehovah God makes clear that Israel is a spiritual family -- even a spouse -- to whom he has a special relationship. The land comes, and the land goes. The earthly kingdom is broken in two, taken away by various other nations, restored in part only to be taken again. And this all in the context of God struggling to bring his people into conformity with himself....

As Christians, the Promised Land, the Kingdom of Heaven, is both our eternal home and our present dwelling place. It is not America. It is not Israel. It is not the West. No, our only safe dwelling place is in the arms and heart of God, and in the fellowship of his imperfect Bride, the Church.

From that place, we are to be children, because only those with the hearts of children may enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And we are to love our neighbors and yes, even our enemies.

The Promised Land is Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus. And we blaspheme Jesus' name when we suggest any earthly nation or place is God's inheritance to us. It is not. God's inheritance to us is love.

1 comment:

thegator said...

Scene in Heaven over the issue of the Nation of Israel vs. Palestinian Christians:

God the Father (defending Israel): "But I promised them the land,"

God the Son (defending Palestinian Christians): "But I died for them."

God the Holy Spirit: "Come on guys, I told you this was gonna happen."