December 22nd, 2012| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


An ancient prophet declared that Jesus Christ was the Prince of Peace.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

That’s all well and good; Jesus might have come to bring peace, but not in Bethlehem this year.

Reuters reported the other day about a brawl in one of Christianity’s holiest churches, the Church of the Nativity, apparently built over the traditional site of the birth of Jesus in Jerusalem.

Nope, it wasn’t between Palestinians and Jews. Or between Cowboys and Redskin fans. Or between Democrats and Republicans. Nope. And it wasn’t between Coke fanciers and devotees of Pepsi, either.

Nope, of these famous rivalries were in evidence in Bethlehem last week.

It wasn’t over whether fiscal cliffs were worth jumping off of. Neither did it have anything to do with the (then) fast-approaching Mayan calendar-predicted Doomsday. Or whether there should be gun control in the US, Christmas trees in public places, or whether Sachin Tendulkar should retire. (And if you don’t know who that is, I feel sorry for you.)

Nope, none of these potentially divisive conundrums caused the aforementioned fracas.

The melee was … between two factions of Christianity—the Armenians and the Greek Orthodox. In fact, it was between Armenian and Greek Orthodox priests and monks! Leaders of the two sides! Representatives of Christ! Battling in Bethlehem.

Dozens of clergymen feuded with brooms, using them as swords and spears, as they traded accusations about the other side encroaching on their respective domains inside the church.

The Church of the Nativity, you see, is shared by Roman Catholics, Armenians, and Greek Orthodox. Last week’s squabble over sacred space was over who should clean which area of the ancient church, a privilege akin to ownership of that area. Hence the implements of warfare—brooms!

(The Catholics, for some reason, weren’t anywhere in sight.)

Palestinian security forces had to intervene to break up the scrimmage. Thankfully, no one was injured, nothing was damaged.

But this is not anything new. Not only have church-cleaning enterprises sunk into fisticuffs in the past, the Church has oft ended up as a staging ground for international politicking and posturing.

In the 19th century, the Catholics vs. Orthodox antagonism became so fierce, Russian Czar Nicholas I deployed troops along the R. Danube to threaten the Turkish Sultan who was supposedly favoring the Catholics over the Orthodox!

These ongoing battles have caused the Church to fall dangerously into disrepair; its roof has needed desperate work for decades, and leaks therefrom have ruined much of the priceless artwork inside. Disputes as to who would foot the bill have paralyzed any action.

Reuters said: “Those disagreements threaten the integrity of the church itself.” That’s certainly true. But these frequent offensives also threaten the testimony of those who follow the Prince of Peace.

[Jesus said:] “Be at peace with one another.”
Mark 9:50

Obviously that ain’t working.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every evil thing.
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?
Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?
James 3:16; 4:1

Only through Jesus’ victory over Satan and sin, a victory realized in believers, can we let go of the self, and not succumb to the flesh. And only by such relinquishing and resisting can believers find “peace on earth.”

Jesus promised:

“My peace I give to you.”
John 14:27

May it be yours this Christmas!

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