Christian Hospice

Christian Hospice

Mount of Olives Palestinian Christians
Christian Hospice - Battle of Masada

Christian Hospice

The spiritual battles I witnessed in Israel, especially in Jerusalem, reminded me of what I read about WWI trench warfare. All combatants are weary and resigned to staying in their trenches. Few venture into the no man's land, and those who do face both enemy and friendly fire.

During my visit to Jerusalem, I once found myself next to an orthodox Jew in the lobby of an Anglican Christian hospice. After greetings and some small talk, I asked him, "If I gave you a book about Jesus, would you read it?"

Before he could answer, the manager of the Christian hospice jumped in to cut me off, then sheepishly begged the man to ignore me. I waited until the Jewish man left the lobby, then confronted the manager of the Christian hospice. Instead of apologizing, the manager declared that while I may speak to Jews about Jesus elsewhere in Jerusalem, I was to refrain from doing so inside his hospice and certainly not in the lobby.

When asked why his "Christian" hospice was off limits to the Gospel, he said they had their way of telling people about Jesus and outsiders were not to be a part of it. When asked how many Christian converts "their" way had won, the manager conceded that they were still working on their first.

When I asked a Christian leader in Jerusalem whom he found himself up against most often in Jerusalem, he replied, "Muslims and Catholics." While the former came as no surprise, I was surprised to hear the latter in the same breath, but didn't have to wait long see it for myself.

That night, I ended up in a theological discussion with the Arab Catholic owner of an Old Jerusalem web cafe, his Arab Orthodox assistant and an American agnostic. After about an hour and a half, the Catholic owner of the cafe in particular seemed open to the Gospel and began to concede that traditions may have to be cast aside when they contradict the Bible (see When Were The Gospels Written?).

Just then, two local Catholic priests, including the man's own, walked into the cafe while making their rounds through the Old City. Upon hearing the topic of our discussion, their eyes narrowed. They sat down and quickly divided the discussion in two. While the younger friar engaged me with questions, the older reeled in the cafe owner.

By the time the discussions merged again, the Catholic owner was back to parroting the need to pray to Mary, saints, etc., while glancing over at his priest, who nodded and smiled in approval.

The clincher came when the American agnostic asked the senior priest, "I have very nice Muslim friends. Can they go to heaven without believing in Jesus?" Even the other patrons in the cafe stopped typing and turned around for the answer. The priest looked around at everyone, smiled, then replied, "Yes." When I blurted out, "What!", he added, "Of course! Jesus loves eeeeverybody."

"Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father EXCEPT through Me." (John 14:5-6, emphasis mine)

Speaking of battles, the painting above, found hanging in the lobby of the Masada cable car station, depicts the battle of Masada in which about one thousand Jews held out atop the impregnable plateau against a Roman legion. The battle actually never took place as painted; the night before the Roman siege mound reached the plateau, all but seven of the one thousand committed suicide.

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