Another Man's Bus

We left Bethlehem last Monday morning to go back across the border into Jordan to visit Rob who was in a serious car accident. From Bethlehem to Jerusalem is about 10 miles. From there to the Jordanian border is another 20 miles. (Down the valley and past Jericho). Should take about 45 minutes. But it takes several hours.

Rick and I planned to take a taxi from our hotel either all the way to the border, or into Jerusalem and then get another to the border. Neither worked out. Our hotel informed us that "Today there are no taxis into Jerusalem allowed." So we walked to the "security fence" (which is a 20 foot high and 6 foot wide concrete wall separating Bethlehem and much of the West Bank from Israel proper). To get through the wall we had to walk through several hundred yards of turnstiles and ziz-zagging fences which lead up to an airport-like security check. My friend Rick and I were the only foreigners - all the others were Palestinians trying to go to Jerusalem to visit family or to their jobs. They do this (both ways) every day.

It was my turn to put my things on the conveyor belt and pass through the metal detector. I buzzed. Oops. A young Israeli girl behind the glass yelled at me in Hebrew. I assumed it meant "go back you beeped" or something to that effect. So I did. I took anything else in my pockets out and placed them on the conveyor belt. I turned and walked back through the beeper thing, now conscious that all eyes were on me and waiting impatiently for their turn at this task. The thing beeped again. This time the yelling was louder with a more-than-annoyed hint in the voice. I looked at the girl with the Uzzi and raised my hands, palms up with an expression of "what do I do now." She must have recognized the dumb foreigner look as she then said to me in English, "Do you have a passport?" I held up my blue American one and she simply said "Go."

We then caught a local taxi - a Jerusalem taxi allowed only on that "side" of the wall - and went all the way to the border. Well, actually not ALL the way. He wasn't allowed to go any closer than about a mile from the actual border, so we got dropped off in the middle of the desert to get another taxi that could take us all the way "in."

Once through passport control we had to take a bus across the Jordan River and the no-man's-land to the Jordan side. Rick and I walked out of the passport office and there were two buses waiting there. I asked a guy "Which bus goes first" and he pointed at the one. We noticed as we were getting in that this bus was extremely dirty. Filthy actually. And there was no air conditioning.

As soon as we got on I noticed that they were all Palestinians on this bus. Immediately a lady holding her young son said to us in near-perfect English, "This is the bus for the Palestinians. You need to be on that other bus. It's for foreigners and tourists." I responded, "Oh that's okay, we don't mind coming with you". She said, "Well, thank you, but you can't. You HAVE to go on that bus."

Slightly embarrassed by the whole thing, we said we'd check and stepped off the bus. The other bus was clean and air conditioned. I asked someone else and they said yes, it was true that this was the bus we had to take. The other bus was only for Palestinians and it went to a "special" check point at the border that would take us hours longer - and anyway, we couldn't go on that bus even if we wanted to.

I went back to the dirty bus and told the lady with the son - and everyone else - that we were sorry for this. And that we felt with them and yet had to go on the other bus. They all smiled and said "thank you" and "we know."

I find myself asking more and more, what does God think about this? What does he think about injustice and how we treat foreigners and the least of these? How does he want us to treat the outsiders? The outcasts? The other?

I'm pretty sure I know what he thinks - so what then should I think? And do?

In Beirut

We're at the end of our third day in Lebanon. Incredible. We've literally seen 100's of people. Lebanese, Palestinians, Shi'ites, Sunni, Druze and Christian. From the north to the south. Lots of old friends and making some new ones.

Once again I'm astounded by the open hearts towards the good news of Jesus Christ. The pastors that we brought are also amazed by the openess of the people.

Please continue to pray for us as we travel tomorrow morning (Friday) to Syria and then on to Jordan.

Two of the guys are sick, so pray for them too...

I'll give details when I get back - but for now....with love and grace



Jonathan sent me this question recently:

"I understand most of what you are saying regarding following Jesus, however when do we draw the line on what's right and what's wrong? When it is "Ok" to confront someone when we see they are destroying there life? For example: I have had several openly gay friends who might call themselves followers of Jesus but they don't see a need to change their lifestyle and if they are confronted to do so they immediately get defensive if they are confronted and say that church people are hateful and narrow minded. (As a disclaimer I have never told them they are wrong and are going to burn) I guess what I'm saying is when is it Ok to confront? I am having a difficult time understanding what the Bible teaches regarding this matter. I do not however want to condemn and preach at people about what's right and what's wrong regarding this either."


Dear Confused,

Good question. When is confronting someone right? Is it ever good to tell someone the "full story" right up front rather than being nice and smooth and all slick....

Yes. That's the answer. There is a time. Clearly, if you look at the life of Jesus (which I hope we're all doing) you see times when he confronts. He tends to save the harshest confrontations for the religious leaders. But he can also be pretty hard on his disciples.

However, the one group that he's almost over-the-top nice to are the outsiders. Not just any old sinners (we're all that), but the lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and the like. He lavished grace on them.

So....I think there are two keys:

1. Being led by the Spirit. Not having a set formula that we give to everyone.

2. Knowing the person. If they are a person who thinks of them self as an outsider, hurt or wounded - then pouncing on them with the 4 Spiritual Laws, might not be right.

Now your situation is a bit of both. Your gay friend is coming to church but still living in a life of sin. What do you do? I would say kick him out of the soon as you kick out the gossips, liers and adulterers. Jesus has a lot to say about those types. But as long as we're loving and accepting those sinners, we might as well accept your friend too...

This does NOT mean that you don't speak truth to him. Love him and point him to Jesus. Pray for him and encourage him to have the best Jesus has to offer. He's settling for less than the best. Call him to truly come out, but coming to Jesus! The feast is set for him and it's SO good!