When issues are complex, made up of a tangled knot of international politics, sociology, and yes, religion—it is easiest to paint things in black and white. Take, for example, the current missile exchange between Israel (now occupying on foot) and her neighbor, Palestine. In many discussions, whether on social media threads, blogs, or other media, stances are depicted as either Palestine’s fault (initiating conflict, advocating genocide, permitting violent groups to work in and among them) or Israel’s (steady occupation, monopoly on resources, cruel and unusual retaliation, etc.), but any close examination of any fact of history will quickly prove such conflicts are always far more complicated than our either/or positions would typically suggest.
That said, those engaging the issue must be able to stand back and detach themselves from the situation (as much as this is possible) so that we can see more clearly where both sides can receive their due and necessary criticisms. To gain not a little distance from our current embroilment will help us to also be self-critical, to see where we have been so often blind to the validity of other’s positions and vice versa. For example, we lose nothing, by acknowledging that people often act violent when they are slowly herded into smaller and smaller specks of land (I’m looking at you Israel) and we gain nothing per se by condemning acts of terror against Israeli citizenry by the former (i.e. Palestine). You see, when we transcend this way we are no longer caught with something like having to choose between two teams in the World Cup final.
Now I’m no pacifist per se but my biggest quip with both sides is this notion that we must use “missiles” to overcome the current obstacle, as if any other answer is nothing more than dreamy romanticism because we all know that war is the only real feasible answer. In fact, I think countries should have military in order to defend themselves, particularly their people, from invasion and imminent attack from outside sources, but as I see it, this should always be the final resort, not our first as Iraq has hopefully taught us. The danger with preemptive and immediate retaliation is that you yourself can wind up being the criminal in an ironic twist of events.
Point being: there are other possibilities for dealing with international strife that doesn’t necessarily end in innocents living under the constant threat of mortar shells, and the children who ultimately succumb to them. In fact, the idea that all things must be solved by warfare might be what we could call a long held “earthly indoctrination.” A doctrine so long held that we can no longer see any other way, truth, or life. C.S. Lewis wonderfully portrays this reality in his little sci-fi book Out Of The Silent Planet; in the twelfth-chapter he details a conversation between Ransom (who has been taken captive and is now on the strange planet Malacandra) and Hyoi (a native of the planet and of the species known as the hrossa) about the relations between the three rational inhabitants of the planet, particularly the threat of conflict should it arise:
THEY WORKED hard at Hyoi’s boat till noon and then spread themselves on the weed close to the warmth of the creek, and began their midday meal. The war-like nature of their preparations suggested many questions to Ransom. He knew no word for war, but he managed to make Hyoi understand what he wanted to know. Did séroni and hrossa and pfifltriggi (the sentient beings of Malacandra) ever go out like this, with weapons, against each other?
“What for?” asked Hyoi. It was difficult to explain. “If both wanted one thing and neither would give it,” said Ransom, “would the other at last come with force? Would they say, give it or we kill you?” “What sort of thing?” “Well – food, perhaps.” “If the other hnau wanted food, why should we not give it to them? We often do.” “But how if we had not enough for ourselves?” “But Maleldil will not stop the plants growing.” “Hyoi, if you had more and more young, would Maleldil broaden the handramit and make enough plants for them all?”
Though the story is fiction, Lewis is using his narrative to make a larger point, drawn as it is from principles within our world: that our answers, and yes our reasons, for war are not the only option, and that it is possible for beings, in this case the hnau to find alternatives to “com[ing] with force.” For the hrossa the answer to the séroni and pfifltriggi wanting their food (and presumably anything else) is to simply give it, because Maleldil (the supreme deity of sorts) has provided enough to sustain them all. On Malacandra, the initial response to need is to give, not hoard and defend.
In fact, this current conflict is largely about two people refusing to give. Both people have needs—Palestinians and Jews—but the problem is that both refuse to give and share and so martial conflict becomes and appears inevitable. It seems, to me, we believe sharing instead of fighting is only useful for the schoolyard but geo-politically speaking fighting is the official “grown-up” answer.
But this is where Jesus comes in.
For Jesus, national conflict included a tense relationship between Jews and their in-house neighbors, the Samaritans. This is largely the context for his teaching concerning the gratuitous Samaritan recorded in Luke 10. N.T. Wright makes a similar point when he writes:
The hatred between Jews and Samaritans had gone on for hundreds of years—and is still reflected, tragically, in the smouldering tension between Israel and Palestine today. Both sides claimed to be the true inheritors of the promises to Abraham and Moses; both sides, in consequence, regarded themselves as the rightful possessors of the land. Few Israelis today will travel from Galilee to Jerusalem by the direct route, because it will take them through the West Bank and risk violence. In exactly the same way, most first-century pilgrims making the same journey would prefer, as Jesus himself did, to travel down the Jordan valley to Jericho and then turn west up the hill to Jerusalem. It was much safer.
Jesus’ answer about their conflict, reflected in the question posed by his interlocutor in the parable is that they are to be neighborly one to another. Jesus neither embroils himself in their conflict—blaming one and taking up the cause of the other—but re-directs their national conflict to that of giving and sharing. Apparently, being neighborly not only works on Malacandra, but on earth as well! I imagine, then, if we were to ask Jesus about potential violence between Palestinians and Jews over land and resources Jesus might answer similarly to Hyoi, “But YHWH will not stop plants from growing.”
Such an answer would not be science fiction for Jesus, because his Father was the type of God that “let it rain on the just and the unjust”—and who more importantly summoned his image-bearers to do likewise. Thus, our answers to national strife will and should be informed by Jesus’ answer to internal conflict for Israel within his own generation (remember, the conflict between Jews and Samaritans was politico-religious in nature and yes, social and geographical): neighborliness. As I see it, neighborliness is the meta-principle by which we should formulate all answers for Israel’s modern conflict—war being the final and solemn answers, lest we think Jesus a pious dreamer and the war mongering politicians then and now the true realists. I should think not, for Jesus is always standing in wings of history saying to future generations, “Go and do likewise.”
 N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), pg. 127.