Interacting with God, either through prayer, worship, labor or relationships or otherwise, occurs in a particular time and place. Sharing the Gospel message requires understanding of the setting too.
Eyes of Christians around the world are pointed to the land of Holy One (Jesus) and wish to visit and some take a blessed extra step and wish to interact with the local dwindling Christian community.This requires understanding of these complexities if they are to be successful in this interaction.
I live in a unique place- in Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus. Such a historical location has great spiritual meaning for Christians around the world. As such- it is imperative that the message of the Nazarene be strong and sound in the home of the Nazarene.
I will hereby share the complexities of living in a unique place like this as different people seek to have impact on the life there. I will take Nazareth as a micro cosmos of the Holy land as a whole.
Today Nazareth is a crowded modern town with endless traffic and with ordinary people who just want to make a living and manage their lives in a decent manner.
It is an Arab town with a Muslim majority situated in Israel that is ruled by a Jewish majority. Therefore, as an Arab Christian, I live in Nazareth as a minority in a minority
The complication does not stop there. While the Bible instructs us to be wise as serpents, that involves understanding the complexities of life in every region before sharing about Jesus in it, thus not to undermine your own message. Paul Knew about the different gods that the Greek believed in before he approached them with the concept of the “unknown god”.
In the holy land, that involves understanding the clash of identities-both on the religious level as well as on the national one. This clash determines my stance and position in relation to how I serve as His disciple and witness for Him. On the one hand I am a Christian among Jews and Muslims. On the other hand, I am an Arab Palestinian among Jews and sharing with them the Israeli citizenship. This happens in the shadow of the ongoing conflict between my citizenship, as an Israeli citizen, and my national belonging and affiliation as a Palestinian.
The message of Jesus the savior of the world will need to take this clash into consideration
Living in Nazareth of 2000 years ago would have been special and you could not avoid interacting with God incarnate Himself who lived in the same town making huge impact! However, living in Nazareth, Israel today as I do is much different. My office in Nazareth Baptist School is about half a Mile from where Jesus was raised and spent most of His life. Despite the fact that Jesus does not live physically in it today, it has a special flavor, meaning and responsibility.
The other big challenge is to keep this reality of being a witness for Jesus in His hometown afresh beyond the tyranny of the familiar and the “for-granted”.
In the daily busy course of life in Nazareth, one forgets the privilege and responsibility of shining as a witness for Jesus. Fortunately, we are wired in a way that we learn and absorb through signs and land marks that serve as reminders of our responsibility and mission, and for me especially in the specific place called Nazareth.
The name of Jesus in conversations still brings embarrassing and awkward moments. However the good news is that due to the openness through social media, the new generation is much more open to hear about Jesus- a matter that we perceived in the past as a taboo.
The other challenge in sharing about Jesus is that people find it difficult to see beyond layers of religious ceremonies and are stuck in the means to get closer to God instead of in God Himself. God has freed us in His son, therefore it is a challenge for every good news bearer to go through these traditions directly to the core of the salvation of Jesus.
A new challenge is that of the global politics and the connotation with Christians who support controversial polices. Frankly, some Christian leader’s views and deeds are a huge stumbling stone and prevent seekers from seeing beyond them. When Christian leaders in the west take political stands against Arabs in general, then their message (and the message of all who adhere to the same Christian faith) is silenced.
In the midst of hatred and lack of Justice, my people will be attracted to a message of the prince of Peace, the Just one and the one who is the Hope of the world.
When extremism and religion are on the rise in the region but have not offered any solutions, the people of the land want something else. Only Jesus can give them fulfillment and satisfaction as He created man and woman and is capable of fulfilling their needs. intimate relationship with the person of God.
Will we be wise bearers of such message and speak to the needs of the people according to His will?