As the Chairman of the Texas-Israel Alliance, I recently led a Texas trade mission to Israel, to enhance business and trade between Israel and Texas. Throughout the trip we had many first rate meetings with AT&T, Microsoft, cyber security firms, venture capital firms, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s national security advisor, the founder of Checkpoint Software, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Knesset, among many memorable meetings.
Perhaps the most compelling meeting, however, took place over a traditional Israeli lunch in the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights are the beautiful hills rising above the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River Valley. Israel seized and kept a portion of this terrain following the Six Days War with Syria in 1967, as it is critical to effective Israeli defense of its citizens in Northern Israel. Without the Golan Heights, Israel would be extremely vulnerable to lightning attacks by Islamic jihadist terrorists, or in a renewed war, to the Syrian army.
While the border with Syria is relatively calm, Hezbollah incursions on the Lebanon border nearby keep this area a perpetual hot zone. And with the recent Syrian Civil War and refugee problem, the Syrian border has been a setting for sorrow and suffering.
Our briefer was an Israeli lieutenant colonel, responsible for a large number of army troops stationed along the border. He is a battle hardened, no nonsense, take no prisoners military professional, no stranger to killing and death.
As the Syrian refugee problem continues to become more and more tragic, horribly injured and lost Syrian women and children find themselves at the border desperately in need of medical assistance, food, water and shelter. While it was tempting to ignore this crisis as irrelevant to the defense of the homeland, the Israeli Army (“Israeli Defense Force” or “IDF”) instead jumped into action through “Operation Good Neighbor,” rendering critical medical care and relief supplies to hundreds and hundreds of desperate Syrians: their enemy. Their service to their neighbors is a wonderful testimony to mercy and kindness without self-interest.
But the IDF was far from alone. Out of the blue, the hardened but bemused Lieutenant Colonel received a communication from an American Christian group, wanting to come assist in the relief work. He did not know much about Christians, except that they were very interested in a Jew named Jesus Christ from 2,000 years ago. He shrugged and said if they were crazy enough to want to come into the fire zone and help, they could. Less than forty-eight hours later, they arrived. The battled toughened Lieutenant Colonel could not keep from getting choked up every time he recalled the relief work of his men and the American Christians, who had no roots or ties to his country or the miserable Syrians they came to comfort and aid.
What can we learn from this lovely, small story? Random, small acts of kindness provide substance to Saint Francis of Assisi’s call “to preach the Gospel, and use words only when necessary,” James’ admonition that faith without works is dead, and Jesus’ call that we will know his people by their love and their fruit. The regenerated Christian follower of Jesus will bring fruit and love into the world.
Increasingly, Christians are demoralized in America by the cheapening and moral degradation of our culture. It seems like the culture wars are tilting ever more towards secularism, paganism, and moral relativism. It is easy for the faith community to become discouraged, angry, and despondent. However, that is the wrong answer.
A humble approach would be to view the culture wars as too big a battle for any individual person or church to push in the right direction. The direction of our country and its culture is God’s to orchestrate, not ours. It’s our lot in life to be salt and light in the world. Like our brethren in Syria. To point people to the shining city on the hill, through our acts of kindness and love, and with our words when necessary. Be encouraged by the body of Christ moving with grace and power on the borders of Syria, Lebanon and Israel.