Yesterday I was approached by someone who expected me to be able to sum up my response to the Israel / Palestine situation in one minute. My suggestion that it wasn’t the easiest of situations met with an apparent wonder that I could not immediately describe God’s mind on the matter. She clearly thought she knew but as she walked off without so much as a goodbye, (I was, apparently, not worth any further effort) I am now no wiser. I am pretty sure that her idea of the mind of God would be drawn from a fairly literal reading of the Bible. But can we really expect to find the answers to complex contemporary political issues, even if rooted deep in history as this situation is, in a literal reading of a collection of books the most recent of which was written nearly 2,000 years ago? That seems to me to make an idol of the Bible, and is not how mainstream Christian denominations ask that we read it. The Bible has an important place in Christian life, more than that, vital, but it is to be wrestled with and not read lightly. It is not a sort of socio/political Highway Code but a record of human encounter with the divine. We are to bring reason and experience to its reading. It does not contain for us easy answers to the situation in the middle east nor to any of the issues large or small that beset human life, or the life of the planet. What it can do is to point to the questions we need to ask in order to live well. What it can do is to provide a story or framework within which those questions might be asked, and maybe even answered.
I am rather suspicious of easy answers as I am of those who profess to be certain of the mind of God on such issues as this at least, but there are some large questions that humanity will be all the better for wrestling seriously with. The Bible and the church can help define those questions, but neither can provide simple answers. Except, perhaps, this: that while we search for those answers we struggle with the demanding but rewarding task of loving one another.
So to the woman I encountered: a blessing.