Thursday, March 5, 2015

Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger: Obama and Netanyahu

"You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, 
slow to speak, slow to anger" - James 1:19

   Little is known about the James who wrote the letter bearing his name towards the end of the New Testament. It is strongly believed that he was the same James who served as the head of the church in Jerusalem, which was home base for the movement in the first century. It is also believed that his older brother was a certain wandering Galilean teacher and miracle-worker, named Jesus.
   I wonder if this wisdom from James 1:19 could be traced back to growing up in the same house with Jesus. Did he see his older brother model these truths as they were coming up together? If so, what a splendid example of brotherly love and right-living.
   The reality of our human condition is that many people struggle mightily to listen well, to speak after thinking, and to keep our emotions in check when we differ with someone else. This has been on display this week, and in the previous months, in the conflict between two strong allies, nations who are like brothers, Israel and the United States. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited by our Congress to come and speak back in January. The main points he outlined this week before a very partisan gathering in Washington were Israel's concerns over a possible agreement between the U.S. and Iran on nuclear research. Israel is against the deal, believing such a deal threatens their security, while many around the world see the deal as a way to block Iran from going further and developing nuclear weapons. President Obama and the White House have taken offense at the very invitation of Netanyahu to speak to Congress. They cite the advantage Netanyahu gets in his own tight upcoming elections in Israel, that he offers no new alternatives to the Iran dilemma, that he is simply trading in fear, and that he has come to the U.S. to further the bitter partisan divide within our own political landscape.
   All of this is just another small piece of a terribly larger puzzle that is American politics and international relations. It is also a case study in the very thing James is talking about when he writes his letter to early Christians. For James, both Obama and Netanyahu would be wrong. One side does not want to listen any more while the other is forcing its way to the stage to speak.
   Julie and I have been to Israel; we spent 7 days there in early 2007 on a trip touring prominent Holy Land sights with a group from South Georgia. We felt the tension and believe that Israel needs to be protected. But, we also saw the ways that Israel is the perpetrator of human rights violations upon their neighbors. The entire Middle East is a complex situation. But, that could be said of a thousand topics in our world today, right?
   Life is complex. Sometimes the best we can do is to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Grace and Peace, Scott

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