The Line Between Good and Evil - The War in Israel adn Palestine

“The line between good and evil passes through the heart of every human being.” Think about these powerful words from great Russian prophet, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. “The line between good and evil passes through the heart of every human being.”

Too often we like to adopt a simplistic worldview where there are good guys and there are bad guys. We like to see life through a lens of good and bad people, where we typically represent the good guys and the “other,” (whoever they may be) are the bad guys. Especially when we hear about some terrible, horrific crime or event, we especially like to distance ourselves from the evil actions of others and dehumanize them, portraying them as inhuman animals, monsters, or even evil incarnate itself. They are something totally different and distinct from ourselves, we like to think. This perspective in which we see the world in a black/white lens seems so much easier to comprehend if we cheer on the good guys while we condemn and debase the evil ones.

A Christ-centered worldview, however, realizes life in all its complexity. The reality is that we are all a part of fallen humanity. As Saint Paul puts it, “We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Every human being has the potential to do great evil and the possibility to do great good. Every person does some acts of love and goodness to certain people, while everyone, ourselves included, can do selfish and dark acts at times. Every human being has the potential to become a saint, and yet simultaneously we also have the potential to become a lost demon.

“The line between good and evil passes through the heart of every human being.”

We want to remember this as we watch in horror the catastrophic events happening in Israel and Gaza. The sudden terrorist attacks into Israel were horrendous - with more than 1300 innocent people, including 450 children, slaughtered and killed, 150 hostages taken, and more than 5,200 injured. We deeply mourn with the Jewish families that have lost loved ones, with those who have been traumatized by these events, and deeply empathize with the Israelis’ sorrow and pain.

Yet over the past eight days, we have also seen Israel’s retaliation in Gaza where, as of yesterday, 2,200 people have been killed, including 750 children, 9,000 injured, and with an imminent full invasion into the Gaza strip, more than one million Palestinians being forced out of their homes with no place to go and with electricity, water, and food supplies cut off. What a humanitarian disaster they face! We deeply mourn and empathize with the Palestinians’ suffering and trauma, their sorrow and pain.

It’s too simplistic to identify one people as good and the other side as evil. We must utterly reject any provocative statements that turn the other people in dehumanizing ways - like when the Israeli Defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said that Israel was fighting “human animals” or when Hamas spouts anti-semitic slogans and grossly caricaturizes the Jews in a terribly negative way. It is evil when either side dehumanizes the other.

In both Israel and Palestine, there are many people who desire peace and want to live in harmony with one another. There is good that passes through the hearts of many people. And yet, there is also evil that passes through the hearts of both Israelis and Palestinians. Too often it is the fanatic fringe elements of either side that push forward their radical agenda and commit atrocities toward the other.

Yet we must always remember that every child is a child of God, whether Israeli or Palestinian. When we mourn and cry for the dead, we need to cry for every dead child, woman, and man whether Palestinian or Jewish.

Israel is a people who has suffered throughout its history. The state of Israel was created as a safe haven where Jews would be free from ever experiencing anything like the Holocaust again and where they could thrive in this world. It surely is existentially threatening and scary when countries and fanatic extremist groups express antisemitic language promoting the elimination of the Jews and the wiping out Israel. And these last terrorist attacks only fuel deep rooted fears that lead to extreme retaliatory responses.

Palestinians, on the other hand, are a people driven off of the land they lived in for centuries when Israel was created in 1948 and since then, they’ve never been allowed to create their own state. They’ve endured oppressive military rule in the West Bank, ongoing illegal Jewish settlements being expanded in their land, and a long-term siege on the Gaza Strip. People in Gaza live with little hope for their future, having a per capita income of $1250, less than half of the people in Haiti.

Both countries and peoples can point to their history and highlight their suffering. Yet, if both look honestly at themselves, they can see where they have inflicted suffering on the other. There is good and evil on both sides, and in the hearts of Israelis and Palestinians, as in the hearts of each one of us!

“The line between good and evil passes through the heart of every human being.”

Be careful to blindly stand on one side, while ignoring the suffering of the other. As followers of Jesus Christ, we must always be on the side of those who are suffering and show compassion and love to all those who are in need; with Israelis when they are attacked, and with Palestinians, when they are bombarded. We need to always be on the side of the suffering!

We’re also on the side of the peacemakers, praying for those striving to promote peace and reconciliation and justice. May God give strength and a voice to those who promote peace in places of conflict like in Israel and Palestine today. May we ourselves always strive to act as instruments of peace, remembering Christ’s words, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

“The line between good and evil passes through the heart of every human being.” Therefore, take care never to dehumanize anyone, no matter what evil they have committed. Their action may be evil and they may have lost their moral compass in their lives, but underneath all their darkness still exists a child of God created in His image and likeness. And always remember that one person, or a small group of people, don’t represent the entire nation. Hamas is not the Palestinian people; it is a fanatic, extremist group. The hawkish, right-wing element in Israel don’t represent the Israeli people, but represent an extreme element within their community.

Let us be careful when we condemn and caricaturize an entire group of people. And let us pray for peace. Let us pray to the Lord:

O merciful Lord, teach us to love our enemies and pray with tears for those who hate us. Remind us, Lord, that all peoples are created in Your image and likeness. They are all your children. It is hard for us sinners to love our enemies if Your grace is not with us. Pour down Your grace upon the earth and let all peoples of the earth know Your love as their heavenly Father - to know that You love every person on this earth with a mother’s love, and so much more than a mother’s love for even a mother can forget her children but You never forget us. Your love for all creation is boundless and Your love will never forget. O Lord, bring peace to the world – especially to Israel and Palestine, Ukraine and Russia, to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and have mercy on all the people of the world

 

Join our parish email list
Monthly Bulletin


Recent Sermons
IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?
February 25, 2024
“In God we Trust.” It is interesting that this is the official motto of the United States. In a country where many contemporary people like to highlight the separation of church and state, thinking that faith should be kept separate from our civil, secular lives, we still say “In God We Trust.” Read more »


Our Orthodox Faith
The Meaning of Memorial Services