The Need for Grace

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A retreat at Camp Victory was Saturday morning Bible Study. In addition to the troops attending, was a translator, born and raised in Baghdad.  It was an intimate group so I didn't fear to inquire, "Waafa, why do Arabs hate the Jews so much?"

She was energetic, by nature, but my question put her on the edge of her seat. "I'll tell you why Arabs hate the Jews so much, You can ask any Arab in any place and they'll give you the same answer -- we hate the Jews because they say they are God's people!  And, if they're God's people, what does that make the rest of us?"  I was stunned, "That's it," I thought, "This goes back to Cain and Abel -- who does Daddy love best?"

As hyperbolic as her statement appears, she spoke an observable truth -- humans spend extraordinary energy competing to be Number One. But it's a fool's errand -- the absurdity easily seen in monks throwing brooms at the Nativity.

Thoughtful people can't belong to any group without a fair share of embarrassment. From my Christian tradition, we'd just get started with the Spanish Inquisition and the fact our largest Protestant denomination is called Southern because they disassociated from believers who were against slavery. Long before worrying about most-favored status, we should wonder why God doesn't throw the lot of us out.

I'm not trying to offend everyone, rather, point to an obvious impediment -- our singular perspective.


Peace is a high virtue in every major religion. It is never won in the simplest of battles: pointing out each other's faults.  Rather, the brutal fight of dealing with our own.

Humbled by mistakes and miscalculations our approach is more winsome. When not under attack, weakness is seen as something we hold in common, and, thereby, bring to every discussion the much-needed element of grace.

People who believe in heaven should be the first to see this world for what it is -- a place filled with erring human beings, fearful of losing what's important.  It may turn out, like weakness, the most important things we hold in common, and with grace, we can gain them together.

With a Perspective, I'm Steve Torgerson.

Steve Torgerson was deputy command chaplain for Multi-National Force -- Iraq for one year and recently retired as wing chaplain at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.