Labib Madanat speaks to Open Doors: ?I became a Christian during my years at university, whilst I was in Iraq. My decision became a life-transforming practice and choice.
?In 1994 I met Brother Andrew at the Bible College in Bethlehem when I was one year into my ministry there with the Palestinian Bible Society. We visited Gaza and met some leaders of Hamas, which had a huge impact on me. The Lord told me then, ?I have no exclusion zones, not in people or in places ? forget it, there are no exclusion zones, nothing is too difficult for me. No-one is too dirty for the blood of Jesus Christ?.
?I lived in Palestine and as I moved from my very nice Christian 'church club' into the challenges of the Muslim community, I found the courage to admit that I belong to the Muslim community. When I say this, I am not denying Christ ? it?s just another way of understanding mission.
"When people ask me what the position is in Gaza, I reply saying ?You are never afraid of those whom you love, even if they hate you. The good news however is that we are much more loved in Gaza than hated?.
"What is more powerful than anything else is when we take Jesus into the most needy situation and spread the Good News and become a blessing. Jesus said, ?Those who are healthy do not need a doctor. It is those who are suffering and sick; they need the Healer?.
?Turning to the current, very pressing situation between Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, the Church could easily get caught up in the politics of what is happening. We need to engage with what is happening, understand and even open our lives and not be afraid to expose ourselves to the complexity of the world?s challenges. However painful, we should apply the life of Jesus and resolve it within our hearts and minds. I have seen how the Church, the agents of God?s grace, instead of projecting the life of Christ, gets infected by a country?s situation, because sin is infectious.
?It really hurts me when I see the Church become divided as a result of the tyranny of the present situation, rather than overcoming and living the life of Christ. Why does this happen? Maybe because there isn?t enough of Christ in the Church or in us. We need to keep replenishing this within ourselves, especially when we live in a war-torn area where there is lots of hatred, division, killing and justification for the violation of human rights.
?On the ground, the situation is grim. It is extremely dark. It is painful. People are scared. People are being killed, people are anxious and there is one happy guy in all this: the enemy of our soul. We don?t want to share in his happiness!
?It?s so easy to hate in Palestine ? it doesn?t take much effort. It?s the norm. Pray for us as a church there, that we will rise above that. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Christians can deal with their feelings.
?When I heard about the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah, I was tempted to gloat; to think that it ?serves Israel right? when they have killed so many Palestinians in Gaza. We Christian Arabs can easily think that, in the current situation, this is in some way ?fair?. How ugly. How can ugliness and dirt suddenly take the title of ?fair?? How much distortion has Satan brought into our minds, even as Christians?
"And then the Lord in His grace comes and gives me a slap on the face saying, ?Wake up, repent. Go back to that first act of gloating and get it washed by the Blood?.
"We must keep on renewing our minds, offering ourselves and our emotions as living sacrifices (Romans 12). God has made my life glorious, victorious, lovely and clean. This kind of thinking would take me hostage if I did not take it to the foot of the cross.
?The first thing to do is: think like a Jew, not an Arab. What a difficult lesson for me! Why? Because I want to feel Lebanese, I want to feel Arab, I want to feel Gazan, I want to feel their pain. Yet I deny my right to feel the pain of my people and take on the pain of those who the world defines as my 'enemy', who is as loved by God as I and my nation are.
The cross of self-denial means putting on the altar anything that might stand in the way of making Christ seen. Are we willing to identify with our oppressors and carry them before the Lord for healing and salvation?
"I can take it to an even greater extreme and ask, will you be willing to take on the identity of your persecutor and cry before God or go back to the Church and say ?Don?t give up on our enemies?
Eddie Lyle, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, commented ?In marked contrast to the darkness that is consuming the Middle East, here is a radical alternative shown by followers of Jesus Christ.
?The only answer to all the questions being asked about what the future holds, lies in lives surrendered to Christ, of which Labib and many others, are inspiring examples.?
Labib asks Christians in the West to pray that:
? the Church in the Middle East will be clean and stand for righteousness, justice, peace and reconciliation and that all members of the Body of Christ will really surrender their lives and confess their fears and hate to Christ
? the Church in Lebanon will seize the opportunity to show the love of Christ; to take the towel of Jesus and wash the feet of the tired, persecuted and bewildered refugees running away from the fighting in Lebanon
? the Church in Palestine and the Messianic Jews in Israel will be given the grace and power to rise up to what Christ wants them to be
? the voice of the Gospel is heard and Christians have the boldness to speak to the Muslim Arabs, to their friends
? that Arab Christians will have real love for the Jewish people beyond all politics
? Labib and other Palestinian Christians will become more engaged with the Muslim communities in the disputed territories, and for the Lord to create opportunities for Muslims to taste and see how good He is.
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