He suggests we have to zoom out to see a different picture, or at least frame the conflict differently.
But because I’m zoomed out, I’m also seeing Hezbollah (not Palestinian), and the Russians and Iranians (not Palestinian), and the Islamic State-affiliated insurgents (not Palestinian) on our border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. I’m considering the disastrous result of the power vacuum in Syria, which is a 90-minute drive from the West Bank.
And an aside, nothing to do with the above, we are in Madrid. With salt purchased ready to go to some places that need a good old cleaning up. And yesterday we should have completed all the final payments on the apartment. Successful up to the final point! We turn up at the registry of properties, some 30 minutes in the north of the city, to be informed that there is a document missing from the seller, so that needs to be resolved. If not resolved in 30 days… property registry to our name does not complete… sure that would not be too smart, but we think there will be a resolution.
The following verse contains quite a God statement spoken to Abraham:
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Gen. 12:3).
The last part is easy. The true seed of Abraham, Jesus, is the one through whom all the earth is blessed, regardless of ethnic background. The former part could be taken at a simple level and applied to Abraham. Given the election of God of Abraham all who bless him will be blessed and those who do not will be cursed. It is often though understood to not simply be an attitude toward Abraham but toward the seed of Abraham and this can be backed up by adding the words that Balaam spoke:
May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed! (Numbers 24:9).
So it is probably right to include the descendants of Abraham in that original God statement. Settled then? If anyone criticises Israel (today’s Israel) then they are in trouble. However… the prophets spent a lot of their time critiquing and even criticising Israel. The nation was often spoken of in challenging terms and the criticisms can be summarised under two main headings – criticised for not trusting God as Provider nor as Protector. So blessing Israel cannot mean no criticism. And that was to a people still seeking to be a covenant people, with some major differences to the secular state of today.
I am not Jewish, nor do I have a focus toward that ethnic group; I can easily acknowledge that they are ‘beloved because of the patriarchs’, but the continuation of their call is what interests me. If blessing Israel was key maybe a good way to approach these texts is to ask what did it mean to be Israel, for as Paul says, ‘Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.’ Not all of ‘Israel’ are ‘Israel’. That debate is what fuelled the sects within the nation, not too different to – ‘well of course they are not proper Christians, just going to church does not make you a Christian, but unless you are…’ Israel, special nation, was called for the sake of the nations. A wonderful privilege to be called into a unique relationship but with a unique responsibility for all that lay beyond its borders.
Bless Israel. But what if Israel is not being Israel? Ultimately all those who are in Christ are descendants of Abraham, and it is this aspect that is of real interest to me. How do we shape up? Are we (the church) here for those beyond our borders? Don’t curse Israel. Bless (true) Israel. But Israel and all those who live from that calling – live up to the calling. I am sure even when we have not done too well (and when Israel did not do too well) God has a soft spot for the descendants of Abraham. He understands it can be pretty tough at times living up to that non-self-centred calling.
If we live up to our calling and those around bless us there will be blessing flowing to them as we live for them; should they curse us that clearly would not be too smart.
I will post a little later today on something (from my perspective) with a little more substance than this one. So to explain the pause… and to tie to the previous post on being a ‘privileged’ immigrant.
This month, so far, we have managed to clock up in excess of 40, and probably nearer to 50 than 40 hours, of either filling in forms, going to a government department for an interview complete with filled in forms. Today was a good day. A few days ago we had a visit to the tax office to seek to get back excess tax paid in 2017. No cannot do that – main reason being Gayle is not a resident in Spain! (Mental note to self – must work out who is the imposter!)
Then tied to seeking to get Gayle registered as a permanent resident (we were already working on that on a parallel track with the national police) we had to get our wedding certificate legally authorised by the British foreign office, then translated in a centre approved by the Spanish government for translation… the police office is 10 miles one direction, the translation office 10 miles the other, drive between, pay translation of 40€ and foreign office £45, all to receive a card. Yesterday left for translation office (2 hours). Today back to the translation office, off to police station… then a big hit as without an appointment Gayle got her piece of card – permanent residence.
All the above kinda explains what we have been up to (we are also in process of changing our driving licenses – that is a 1 hour drive away and involves a three step process). Meanwhile life for those who are immigrants, often not by choice, and without our privileges? They probably would not have the privilege even to reflect back on the various processes and would have long since given up on counting how many hours had gone into their probably unsuccessful attempts to get whatever papers that might make their lives a little easier.
Living with integrity is always a challenge but if our ‘yes’ is to be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ to be ‘no’ we have to at least try to have a go at doing so. Yesterday we both went to the Police Headquarters in the nearby largish town, Gandia, to try and get our residency papers raised to the level of ‘permanent residents’. We left home at 8.30pm, were back home by 1.30pm to prepare one more document and finally home by 4.30pm. What did we achieve? I finally left with a permanent resident status – but we have one more step for Gayle (more below).
Back in the day when we were voting on the referendum for the Brexit a UK citizen, living long term in Spain, asked me which way I would vote. I said for me it was easy. He replied with ‘you can’t do that. It is all about the country first [UK]. And it is clear – there are two different words. They’re immigrants. We’re ex-pats.’ I was blown away by what he said. Since then we have described ourselves as ‘immigrants’. We have never used the term ex-pats, but have deliberately called ourselves immigrants. However…
We are privileged, white, middle class, accepted by others – that is the kind of immigrant we are. We have resources behind us. Any comparison with those who have come from (e.g.) Africa without papers would be hypocritical. The government can process them and give them legal status eventually – provided they have a contract for 35 hours a week. Something most Spanish citizens do not have.
So yesterday. We had with us probably around 30 documents including photocopies. We had to make one exit during the process to find the local Social Seguridad and get details of how to prove I have paid into the system for over 5 years. Then to an internet cafe to print it off, and back to the police station. Eventually (and seemingly reluctantly) I was given my new status and paper. A marriage certificate is needed for Gayle to get hers… but not any marriage certificate. So home we came and had to post it to the British Foreign office to be authorised by them. When it returns we then have to find a Spanish government registered translator (nearest office is 12 miles away) to translate the document we presented yesterday.
All the above costs… all the above demands papers in order… all the above in the context of bureaucracy. Much easier now before any Brexit. And MUCH MUCH easier than if we had recently arrived from the African continent.
Ex-pats? No way. Immigrants? Not sure now.
We have two more legal situations coming up. The most bizarre one is the tax office who want me to prove I live in Spain. Oh yes – the same tax office that takes 20x what the UK government used to ask me for in social security each month, and taxes at a considerably higher rate than I used to pay. The reason why? They have held on to money that was overpaid for over a year… then written to say they cannot pay it back until I prove I live in Spain. Bureaucracy gone mad… but we are white, middle class who know almost nothing about the red tape of government that shuts down one’s rights.
The influence of ‘end-time’ theology on the (middle Eastern) foreign policy of the US has been there for some time, certainly since the Reagan era. This article in the Guardian is a good precis of where things lie currently:
Sadly the eschatology behind it all – even the adjusted schemes – can only be historically traced back to 1830 or thereabouts; in its unquestioned support for Israel it embraces not a Jewish framework for eschatology, but a Hellenistic one.
The integrity of those who hold this kind of position is not what is at stake but it is the clear danger of any theology to justify our actions to control that is the concern.
When in the UK in December I was carrying this sense that there was an increase of apostolic authority to bring a new level of alignment. This was in particular related to England, and coming to Leicester (midlands) it seemed very appropriate for that geography but applicable wider. I was aware that King Richard’s body had been found there but do not think I knew that the confirmation that it was his skeleton was in part because he had a crooked spine.
Prior to coming across I had a dream just after setting the various dates and places. In it I was present in a Christian gathering and there were some great things taking place. People touched by God, healings etc. There was a very clear voice and the people present were focused and in harmony. A person then explained to me that these great things were taking place because of the unity of purpose. I had already observed two things: 1) that the clarity of voice was coming from one person and there was a great agreement with that voice, and 2) that when I looked out the people were of similar ethnic and class background. There was a uniformity to them.
These two elements disturbed me so I took time to respond to what I was being told saying that the voice of God is as the sound of many waters. It does not come through one language or one culture. If God can speak through a donkey he can certainly speak through a white middle class male. But the fullness of his voice has to come through the diversity, and such diversity will mean that we might not even be able to hear clearly!
Miracles do not attest a person’s authenticity. Paul does say the signs of an apostle were with him and he included miracles as part of the evidence. But by themselves they are not enough. After all Jesus made it clear that there would be those claiming to have done miracles in his name but that they were unknown to him.
The spine and the dream?
A healthy spine is not simply straight but also flexible. It is aligned but allows for movement; it facilitates multi-directional communication.
An apostolic gift must have patience as its context (2 Cor. 12:12) as it seeks to be aligned with the Gospel. Paul exhibited this as he described himself as one called to be an apostle and eschewed the title ‘apostle’. (A title would have given him authority over, the calling a mission to be accountable to.) He was not disobedient to the calling and made himself accountable to heaven for his work. He was aligned personally – he had his ‘true north’ set. If there is to be an increase of apostolic authority then it has to start with right alignment. If those with apostolic gift are not rightly aligned how can they help align the body of Christ. I am not professing to know what this might be but surely at the centre is the commitment to the spiritual and social transformation of the world (let your kingdom come). If there is that alignment in the apostolic then there can be a legitimate voice coming to the body of Christ to align in this way.
A focus on other aspects will be a deviation from true north. All other directions have to flow from that. A straight spine! But a flexible spine that allows and facilitates movement in such a diversity of directions. This is where the multi- and diverse-language voices have to be heard. It is not the voice of the donkey, nor of the white middle class male, but of the multitude who are finding their direction in the light of the true north setting.
If there is to be an increase of apostolic authority that manifest in the UK / England great patience will be needed. A settling for the one voice speaks for all will not be sufficient, and even if miracles manifest there will be a falling short. The diversity might even be somewhat confusing, but the greater fullness can only come that way.
The above thoughts too I believe are totally relevant to a new Europe. The new Europe has to be made up of all of us who are now arriving. We all – those of us who have been established for some time in this context – and those who are more recent on the scene, all have to see ourselves as arriving to shape something new. The Brexit is to do with the reshaping of Europe. The UK (England?) has a huge contribution to make into this context. The gift has to be that of diversity. If a nation can only go where the body of Christ goes then I consider the apostolic increase is needed right now. If not then we are in for a very traumatic future. If it does there is also great trauma ahead, but a pathway through.