Isaw an article about an interesting group. Brothers Together is a group working to help poor Muslim children get the special surgeries they need in Israeli hospitals, the best in the Middle East by far. Brothers Together has sent more than 80 Muslim children from Arab countries all over the Middle East to Israel for life-saving surgeries in the past few years.
Their motivation? A spokesman says: "Our work is motivated by faith and obedience to Jesus... We believe that the love of God is freely offered unconditionally to all people." He says a Muslim child dying from a heart condition should have the same access to medical care as Jewish or Christian kids.
Sounds so good. But there's a glitch. In the news lately there's been a focus on some 14 Muslim children who were on their way to Israel thanks to Brothers Together - who were ultimately not permitted to go -- by their own parents and nations. One mother of a six-year old Iraqi boy with a hole in his heart that needs repair said she couldn't let him enter Israel to receive the healing he was offered -- because she just hates Israel too much. She says she has an innate, inbred hatred of Israel -- she cannot let her enemy heal her son.
Now to our American eyes and hearts, we find this mother's actions to be reprehensible. When I first read this, I was angry at the mother and at the society that filled her with such hate.
Then I remembered much Thursday night and Friday morning at a normal Kairos weekend. We are greeted with suspicion about what we want from the inmates. They've heard about this group and what a wonderful weekend that they will have, but they still don't quite believe that we won't ask for something - anything in return.
The way of the World (which we renounced in our baptism) is to never give something for nothing. Even if we don't ask for something in return now we usually save the gift up to call in a favor in the future. So when some else offers us something free, we wonder what they are going to ask in return. We will even refuse small gifts because we are not prepared to pay the price of what we think will be expected in return for the gift.
Perhaps we even think that way about God. God offers us love without end. He offers us peace, joy, and a new life qualitatively like his own.
The mother in this story was afraid that the Christians in Israel would ask her to give up her hatred. Her hatred is something that is very close to her idea of herself. I don't know her circumstances, but I've seen this type of attitude all around me. She expected to be asked to give up her hatred - to let go and she was not willing to do that. She needed to hold on to her self image and definition of not being that which she hated so much that she couldn't open her hands to receive the gift.
So, what are you holding on to that keeps you from opening your hands to receive God's gifts? What are you unwilling to let go of? Thomas Merton said that we surrender to God last, those things we cherish about ourselves most.
God does not require us to lay aside these things to receive His gifts. But we will find that we cannot receive God's gifts while we cling to them. It is like swinging from one trapeze to another. The person on the next bar does not require us to let go of our trapeze bar. But we cannot reach the person on the second bar until we do let go of what we are clinging to.
As you read this, ask yourself what you are clinging to that holds you back from God and His gifts? What about yourself are you unwilling to let go of? Then, when you think you've found it, ask God to help you let go and reach out and receive His gifts.