Divided by politics; united at the cross
By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.
This past Wednesday was a huge day in the history of diplomacy, as President Trump announced that the United States Embassy in Israel would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and that the United States would begin officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the nation of Israel.
In a way, the announcement merely recognized a reality that already existed. In Israel, everyone thinks of Jerusalem as the capital city. The Knesset (the Israeli equivalent of Congress) is there. The Prime Minister lives there. The Israeli Supreme Court is there. The government offices are there.
But until this past Wednesday, our nation did not officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital. Not only that, but Israelis who were born in Jerusalem could not even write that they were born in “Jerusalem, Israel” on their passports — only “Jerusalem.”
But make no mistake, Jerusalem is in Israel, and it is the capital of Israel. The president was only recognizing what everyone already knew.
Yet it was vitally important that he did so. It means something to Israelis to know that their greatest ally, the United States, recognizes Jerusalem as their capital city.
As one who studies the Bible all the time, and as a Christian, this recognition also meant something to me. I visited Israel for the first time in 2007. Before going, I had high expectations. Yet my high expectations were exceeded in every way by the experience of being there.
It not only enriched my study of Scripture, but it drew me closer to my Lord. I’ve been able to go back several times since then, and Israel feels like another home to me.
I believe God performed a miracle in the years after the Holocaust in bringing about the establishment of the modern state of Israel, and in bringing the Jewish people back to the Holy Land.
Obviously, this did not happen without conflict. For some reason, God has blessed me with many Jewish friends and many Arab friends. I’ve been blessed to travel many times to the Middle East and North Africa.
I have Muslim friends. I have Jewish friends. I have Israeli friends. I have Arab friends. I also have Jewish and Arab friends who follow a Jew named Jesus as their Lord, and I can tell you this: The love of Jesus is what brings all people together.
In Galatians 3:28, the Apostle Paul makes this remarkable statement: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
I’ve personally seen that the love of Jesus unites people. It bridges racial divides, ethnic divides, socio-economic divides.
True Jesus followers recognize that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. We know that we are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God but that Jesus died and rose again to save us. Whatever our background, we are one in him.
There is no room for pride, or prejudice, or racism, or snobbery, or sexism.
We are now one family of brothers and sisters, united by a Savior who allowed himself to be torn apart on a cross for us.
Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.