Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 11, 2015

A Higher Vantage Point

Madaba and Mount Nebo in Jordan

Syrian and Iraqi refugees continue to suffer in silence throughout Jordan — from the Zaatari Refugee Camp along the Jordanian-Syrian border to cities like Amman and Madaba. Most were forced to flee their homes with little warning and arrived in this host country with nothing more than what they were wearing. With scant resources, they have few options for housing. And, as refugees they are not allowed to work and their children do not have access to education, making life even that much harder.

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Today, our team headed southwest from Amman to Madaba, the City of Mosaics, to connect with both Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Madaba is in the region of Moab, the ancient land of Ruth. I arranged for our team to make a quick visit to the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George, a church that dates back to the 6th Century and boasts the oldest cartographic depiction of the Holy Land — an impressive map on the floor of the church made up of more than 1.5 million mosaic tiles.

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I’m glad we stopped at this old church that has survived the centuries. The inside of the church is decorated with amazing mosaics that depict some of the great stories of the Bible. Although regional conflicts have raged outside the church through the years, the mosaics inside the church depict Biblical scenes of Jesus and His disciples loving and serving others — something that stands in stark contrast to the worldview of ISIS.

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Jesus never took a life and He never instructed His followers to do so. If a Christ-follower takes the life of another, he does so in violation of the commands and example of Jesus. Not so with ISIS whose followers have shown the world nothing but a blatant disregard for the value of human life. The civil conflict in Syria is no different. Life is cheap there as well. Over the past few days families we have visited have shown me photos of dead family members, some of which were extremely graphic. These gruesome portraits of death are evidence of what happens when power and bad theology are mixed together. The result is disastrous!

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While in Madaba, we took a quick detour to visit Mount Nebo, the most revered holy site in Jordan. It was at this place that God had allowed Moses to see the Promised Land that he would not be permitted to enter. As I silently surveyed the magnificent panorama, I thought about the message that Martin Luther King, Jr. preached on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated. His message was entitled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”

King said something in that speech that I thought about as we left Mount Nebo to visit Syrian and Iraqi refugees living in the immediate vicinity of this historic site. He challenged his listeners to “develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness” — like that demonstrated by the Good Samaritan. “The Levite asked, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ That’s the question before you tonight.”

The mosaics that adorn the walls of the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George and the history of Mount Nebo remind me of a higher vantage point — one that challenges me to see the worth, dignity, and value of other human beings. This higher vantage point motivates me to serve others as Jesus did and spurs me on to develop a dangerous unselfishness, one that regards others as more important than myself. That’s a worldview that can make our world a better and safer place for every member of the human race.


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