Love, God, the World, and Everything

“Just as the bride circles around the groom as an expression of yearning and love, so do we circle Jerusalem’s gates as we express our yearning to see it rebuilt, our yearning for the days when we will all be able to go up to the Temple Mount and to the [rebuilt] Temple, and not just walk on the perimeter road that surrounds the walls”, said Nadia Matar.

The18th Annual Walk Around The Walls – Jerusalem
By Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar
As quoted from Magic City Morning Star

The Jerusalem Talmud makes an astounding statement: “The generation in which the Beit Hamikdash, the Temple, is not rebuilt is to be regarded as though the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed in that generation.” The explanation is simple. When we mourn for the Beit Hamikdash, we are not mourning for a building that was destroyed 2,000 years ago. Our mourning must be directed to the realization that each generation is obligated to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash and that our failure to do so has little to do with politics, the debate over who has control over the Temple Mount, or the threat of the Arab nations to go to war if we disturb the mosques that sit atop the Temple Mount. The Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt when a sufficient number of Jews make a commitment to change their lives. When will the Messiah come? As the Torah says, “Today, if you hearken to My voice.”

-Rabbi Pinchas Stolper
“Why Do We Still Mourn”
Excerpted from Living Beyond Time: The Mystery and Meaning of the Jewish Festivals
quoted from Aish.com

I really thought I was done blogging about Tisha B’Av and the Temple and was planning on continuing to write about how we in the community of faith can love, but Rabbi Stolper’s article was recommended to me by a friend on Facebook (one who I’ve met in real life…thanks, Michele), so I thought I should read it.

And I couldn’t stop reading it, and thinking, and then writing.

When writing about Tisha B’Av, I naturally tend to focus on grief and loss. It never occurred to me to see the annual event of marching around Jerusalem as an act of love. In retrospect, it should have been obvious to me. Now it always will be.

But as I mentioned yesterday, how we love and even why we love can be terribly misunderstood. When a Christian says that he or she loves all people made in the image of God, including gay people, the LGBT community and the atheist world tends to doubt that Christian’s sincerity, at least unless the Christian follows up by saying they wholeheartedly support “marriage equality.” I mean, how can you love gay people if you don’t support their desire to marry? But then, how can you love God, love the teachings of Christ, believe his definition that marriage occurs exclusively between a man and a woman (see Matthew 19:4-6 as it references Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24) and still be expected to love a gay person only by supporting “marriage equality?”

The answer is that Christians will express their love in many and varied forms as God defines love, but not as absolute agreement and approval of all progressive social and political expectations.

But when you love Jerusalem:

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy! –Psalm 137:5-6 (ESV)

But there’s a problem here:

Palestinians accused U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday of undermining peace prospects by calling Jerusalem “the capital of Israel”, ignoring their own claims to the city and most world opinion.

Romney used the term on Sunday to sustained applause from his Israeli audience in the Holy City, during a trip to present himself as Israel’s closest ally ahead of the November 6 election contest with President Barack Obama.

“We condemn his statements. Those who speak about the two-state solution should know that there can be no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters on Monday.

by Jihan Abdalla
for Reuters
as quoted from news.yahoo.com

The Jewish people and Israel aren’t the only ones to have an interest in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Does loving Jerusalem, desiring that the Temple be rebuilt, and longing for the coming of the Messiah mean that the Jews fail at loving the Arab people? Do they even have an obligation to love and respect them? For that matter, since we Christians have a vested interest in seeing the Temple rebuilt (since prophecy states the Messiah; Jesus will be the one to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem), do we have an obligation to love the Arab people who oppose this prophecy?

I can’t speak for the Jewish people, but as I said yesterday, as Christians we are obligated to love, even our “enemy.” Remember though, this isn’t “enemy” as in an enemy in war, but someone we encounter, someone in our environment, someone who needs God’s love as we can express it though acts of compassion and charity. Who’s to say who is our “enemy” or a “neighbor?”

Which doesn’t mean we have to agree with their politics or even their religion.

I can’t answer the question of how the Temple will be rebuilt and what happens to El Aqsa mosque, which is currently located on the Temple Mount. I leave that up to God. However, some Jewish people have a more definite solution as we see in Katsover’s and Matar’s news story:

Later in his (MK Prof. Aryeh Eldad, co-leader of the Erets Israel Knesset Lobby) speech he referred to the future of the El Aqsa mosque, located on the Temple Mount, as he sees it, and said that we can learn one thing from Beit El’s Ulpana Hill deal, and that is the idea of sawing. “There is one thing we can all learn from one of the most questionable deals we have made lately, and that is what happened at the Ulpana Hill, where they decided to dismantle and relocate the houses, rather than destroy them. At least, when the time comes to reconstruct the Temple, and that time is coming, we will dismantle and relocate the “house” that is currently there. We will cut it up and they can relocate it wherever they want, because that’s where the Third Temple belongs”, called out Eldad over the applause of the crowd.

I can’t imagine many Palestinian Arabs “feeling the love” for Prof. Eldad as he compares disassembling and moving the El Aqsa mosque to the way Jewish homes have been taken apart and removed from so-called “occupied” land, and reassembled in those parts of Israel the Palestinians formally recognize as Israel (at least for the time being). I can imagine that they’d experience Prof. Eldad’s words as about as loving as those of Mr. Romney when he declared that all of Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

In other words, Palestinian Arabs would not hear any love at all.

It seems as if, at least from a Christian point of view, we have a conflict between our religious and theological priorities and the command to love other human beings. If we, for example, insist that “marriage equality” is in direct opposition to the definition of marriage that Jesus gave us, then we are perceived as not loving gay people. Or if we, using another example, believe that Jesus will return and construct a third, physical temple on the Temple Mount in Holy Jerusalem and re-establish Israel as not only a Jewish nation, but the head of all the nations of the earth, the Arab world will certainly not experience us as loving them, either.

So is this an either/or situation? Do we either stick to our theological guns, or toss the Bible, God, and faith out the window in order to blend in and disappear into the progressive social and political masses?

Or is it an either/or situation?

We are often told by atheists, progressives, and politically liberal religious people that Jesus loved unconditionally. But did he?

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 25:34-46 (ESV)

I have to believe that Jesus loves unconditionally as God the Father loves humanity unconditionally, but that doesn’t mean we are all free to do as we please with no consequences, just because of that love. Apparently, Jesus has standards and expectations. Not everyone will be acceptable to him in the final judgment. There will be distinctions between people depending on how or if they expressed love in terms of feeding and clothing the needy and visiting the hospitalized and imprisoned, to take the examples presented in the verses above.

Jesus didn’t say that we had to love other people by agreeing with everyone’s social, political, religious, and national priorities. Loving others, as we see here, doesn’t obligate us to adopt everyone else’s behavioral and social desires, just as God’s unconditional love for us doesn’t absolve us from the consequences of our disobedience to Him.

I was recently reminded that the New Testament uses 1 Corinthians 13 as the “crystalization” of Christian love. Love is considered the greatest expression of faith and indeed, is greater than both faith and hope.

But love is not blind and it is not ignorant, nor should it be swayed by whatever issue is considered important or critical in this week’s mainstream news stories. But love is patient and love is kind and love perseveres, so when we struggle with the world around us, when we are condemned and called names because our love does not precisely match up with another person’s wants and desires, our response is not to attack those who are attacking us. To do so, makes our words nothing more than a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

We must remember that God has been infinitely patient with us. It’s not that he has approved of all of our foolishness, our mistakes, our willful disobedience. But we know that He is slow to anger and abundant in mercy and kindness. If we’ve learned anything at all as disciples of the Master, it’s that we need to be patient, too. We must have patience with our critics and patience with ourselves when we want to respond with anything less than grace.

And we must remember that the source of our love doesn’t flow from today’s headline story on MSNBC, or what happens to be trending on twitter or Facebook. The source of our love surges like waves directly from the heart of God.

Trust is the child of love, for where love showers down, trust will grow.

And since it is a child, the reciprocal is also true: As the child’s call awakens a parent from deep sleep, so trust awakens the love that gave birth to it.

Provide love, trust will be born from it.
Demonstrate your trust, and it will awaken love.

So it is with a child and a parent. So it is with two good friends. So it is with any marriage. Your love may hibernate in deep sleep, but you have trust that the other holds love inside, and in that trust, love awakens once more.

So it is with the love affair between your soul and her Beloved above. Trust that He is in love with you, and your love will awaken.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Love and Trust”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

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