As the news media and the rest of us look at the high-stakes game of "chicken" that's playing out in the Middle East, it's easy to shake our heads and say, "This problem is so old, it has gone on for centuries, there's nothing that can be done about it." Actually, Israel was created in 1948, and while Jews and Arabs may not always have been best buddies, the conflict that is taking so much attention is younger than most of the people who fought in World War II. That doesn't make it less important, but understanding these facts helps to show that the problem has not "gone on forever" and it doesn't need to continue.
Can each of us make a commitment to pray daily for peace in the Middle East? And are we willing to love enough not to judge - to favor one party over the other - but hold firmly to the thought that peace is possible?
This kind of love isn't a wimpy, soupy, "feel good" kind of love. It is love based on a God who is divine Principle - in other words, a God of divine law, who requires reformation and regeneration, but who also is the source of mercy and justice.
This kind of love is clear-eyed. It sees the need for transformation, but it also recognizes that "getting there from here" is not always easy. It includes patience but not indulgence.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, describes such love in these terms: "I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal" ("Miscellaneous Writings," pg. 250).
If we let this love inform our prayers for peace in the Middle East - or actually, just about anything - great things are possible. An example of the kind of progress that can be made is Northern Ireland. No, things aren't totally settled there, but when I compare what it was like when I was doing research in Ireland in the 1970s with what it is like now, there is measurable progress.
Change began to come when more and more people were willing to commit themselves to peace and see that everyone benefited from this. Their commitment demanded death-defying courage. And the prayers of many people around the world sustained them. That's what your prayers and mine can do for the conflict in the Middle East.
What keeps us from praying as fervently as is needed is that we doubt the strength of our prayers or believe that the problem can't be solved because of the personalities involved. Yet personalities can change if there is an overwhelming commitment to peace. The dramatic changes in Northern Ireland offer proof of this.
Some years ago, a friend of mine told me that no place is forsaken by God, that divine Love is truly everywhere. Since the love we are talking about here is the love that is also based on divine law, that means order and peace are possible even in the Arab-Israeli conflict. This thought affirmed daily cannot help but bring about a major change.
At times, the conflict seems so brutal and mindless that it can be hard to believe that divine Love really is present. And yet there are already evidences, sometimes small, of people on all sides who are striving to work for peace and who are making great sacrifices to achieve this goal. This activity is evidence of divine Love's presence.
Those of us who are not directly involved in the conflict or the negotiations have a priceless opportunity to contribute by affirming the governing presence of divine Love in the Middle East. To whatever degree we can commit ourselves to pray and to live in love with one another, we will be making our love felt in the Middle East. And that love will make a difference.
The work of righteousness shall
be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
Isaiah 32:17, 18