It is a real gift to be on this ground. I loved being at the top of Mt. Carmel where Elijah had his famous battle with the prophets of Baal. We also visited Megiddo yesterday – it was a ton of walking and stairs and I can’t really say I enjoyed it but it has definitely captured my thinking in a sobering way. Megiddo is a Tell on the famous Via Maris that reflects thousands of years of human history which also encompasses Biblical Israel’s story. Megiddo is a monument to the human will for survival and also to the sheer brokenness and sinfulness of humanity. When you look at layer upon layer of destruction and then rebuilding (some 25 layers) and the effort made to fortify this city/tel, it strikes me that nothing has really changed. Countries and organizations have to fortify and protect themselves-it just looks different today and involves cyber security and billions of dollars on developing weapons and other means of protection. It certainly seems to be the main reality in the holy land of today. That’s just the way it is: Fortify or die. Being idealistic and trying to transcend this basic need is to be naive about human sin. But where is the hope? Is this “fortify or die” dynamic all there is? This question of course has filled libraries. All I’ll say here is how important it is that our world have a transcendent referent. God’s story, the Biblical story, that gives us direction and purpose that transcends survival of the fittest.
My thought on a more everyday practical level is whether this “fortify or die” is our sole reality as individuals. It’s one thing to think about self-interest when it comes to our countries and economics but are we also simply stuck in this situation as individuals? The answer for me is a paradox: two things in conflict but true at the same time. Yes, of course, we are stuck and have to attend to our survival and the protection of our household but at the same time, no, my encounter with Christ Jesus has set me free to make my neighbor and world my main concern. I live, we live, everyday in this tension. I want our lives to be more than one giant, many layered, tell of “fortify or die” – I want my life to be a monument that looks more like Christ. More like a cross. The Gospel is that in Christ our lives and righteousness are taken care of so that we can now pour them out for others with the promise that Jesus has us in his hands and that we like him, will be raised.