In situations of conflict Christians often find themselves accomplices in war, rather than agents of peace. We find it difficult to distance ourselves from our selves and our own culture and so we echo its reigning opinions and mimic its practices. As we keep the vision of God's future alive, we need to reach out across the firing lines and join hands with our brothers and sisters on the other side. We need to let them pull us out of the enclosure of our own culture and its own peculiar set of prejudices so that we can read afresh the “one Word of God.” In this way we might become once again the salt to the world ridden by strife. -Volf, Miroslav (2010-03-01). Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (p. 54). Abingdon Press.
Volf's book is a sometimes meandering read, but it's given me occasion to think about what the scriptures teach Christians about priority. In particular, it is helping me to consider how we as Western Churches respond to events in the East. I will not engage in political commentary, but there is an issue of Christian faith which requires consideration.
The community requires primary allegiance from members. "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple," Jesus said (Luke 14:26). All other relationships are formed at the behest of the Cross. We honor our father and mother because it is the way of the cross. We love our wife and our earthly family because the cross leads us to love. All of our relationships are restored and prioritized by the cross. "Love one another," the cross calls to us, and so we love.
And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said,
"Behold My mother and My brothers!"
Nowhere is this more relevant than the relationship between Churches in cultures that are in conflict. When there is a clash of cultures or nations, Christians must first look across the conflict and find those members of our Church that are on the other side. The first allegiance is always to the cross, and to our community founded upon it. Opposing the "enemy" must be secondary to embracing our brethren.
In the context of the Arab world, western Churches must realize that they have communities of Christian brothers and sisters in many nations of the region. While we might be quick to support Christians in the pro-western countries, Christians living in "pariah states" and the "axis of evil" are no less deserving of our love and faithfulness, and of our embrace.