Open Forum

On the 22nd of November Sabeel held the last session of the “Open Forum,” for 2011. Throughout the year the community forums examined the topic of “Betahone, (security) the new god of Israel.”

Reverend Naim Ateek asked an important question to the group: How do we gauge God’s love for us? We together examined two readings from the Old Testament, and one from the Gospel of John. In the two scriptures from the Old Testament, God is said to have ordered people to kill, destroy, and occupy lands of others. While this was an accepted understanding of justice and society in Jesus’ day, Jesus would often comment on these Scriptures saying, “you have heard that it was said…but I say unto you…” showing that a new way of being in the world—one which breaks the vicious cycle of violence—was now possible. Jesus’ example of willing sacrifice and death on a cross, rather than participate in systems of displacement, destruction, and killing sets up a new pattern for us to emulate as disciples.

There was time for questions and discussion. The refreshments provided by Maha Ateek were delicious, as always. The referenced Scripture passages are copied below.

Numbers 33: 50-56
Directions for the Conquest of Canaan
50 In the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 51Speak to the Israelites, and say to them: When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their figured stones, destroy all their cast images, and demolish all their high places. 53You shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54You shall apportion the land by lot according to your clans; to a large one you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small one you shall give a small inheritance; the inheritance shall belong to the person on whom the lot falls; according to your ancestral tribes you shall inherit. 55But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides; they shall trouble you in the land where you are settling. 56And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.

Deuteronomy 20: 16-18

16But as for the towns of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. 17You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the LORD your God has commanded, 18so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the LORD your God.
1 John 4:7-11, 20-21

God Is Love
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 20Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters,* are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister* whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters* also.