Some say that living in Jerusalem is the "Fifth Gospel" of Jesus. In other words, the Gospels as we have them in the New Testament scriptures tell us about the life of Christ in His context and give us incredibly challenging examples of how to respond in everyday life but the "Fifth Gospel" forces us to see the deeper truths of these gospels and how they work today.
For example, I read about "the Good Samaritan" and often wonder why this story seems to exaggerate a culture that is so prejudice against each other that they cannot offer the slightest glimmer of grace. Then I see in the "Fifth Gospel" that this level of hatred and cultural arrogance is possible and even normal for many today. I have heard Jews refer to Arabs as "thieves, scum, and peasants". I have heard Arabs refer to Jews as "Neo-Nazis, Occupiers, and terrorists". I have heard others referring to Christians as "Soul Stealers and infidels". I have heard Armeanean Christians call Greek Christians insane, I have heard Modern Orthodox Jews refer to Ultra Orthodox Jews as "Draft Dodgers" and "leeches". I could go on because the fact is everyone here is labeled as something and who you are comes with assumptions. But then I see true Christ followers put aside all of these labels and work to love all. I see Christians threatened as they offer aid to people in Gaza. I see Jesus followers risk their "visa" status by going to Iraq to get medical help for Iraqi children. I see Christian organizations offering help to Jewish orphans that the country of Israel doesn't even help. In other words, the most needy are helped by the one group that is the "lowest" in this culture- the Jesus followers.
Fifth Gospel Chapter 2: I read about "turning the other cheek" in an Eastern culture that believes in the "Golden Rule" of "eye for eye, tooth for tooth". Rabbis and Sheiks teach their communities that it is acceptable and even necessary to respond to violence with violence. It is actually amusing to watch Western leaders try to negotiate peace when they have no concept of the value of family/tribes and the deeply ingrained value of justice in this culture. The very culture of this place requires an ongoing cycle of violence that can only end if one side is willing to accept the disgrace of not avenging a wrong that has been done. The Fifth Gospel shows a follower of Jesus who forgives the group who disguised a bomb in the form of a present that forever changed the life of his 15 year old son. My natural response is to find the people who did this and let my Middle-Eastern Side show, but Jesus says turn the other cheek because he knows that the cycle can only end through lovers of peace and forgiveness.
The Fifth Gospel also helps us wrestle with the questions about the "Promised Land" or "Chosen People". The Fifth Gospel shows us what it means to "consider the cost" or how narrow the road really is. The Fifth Gospel teaches us that following Christ still might cost us everything and that the Word becoming Flesh really is a big deal. In the Fifth Gospel we see that Jesus' example really is the only hope for the world and that followers of Jesus really do have the capacity to make life better for everyone. The Fifth Gospel also gives me compassion for the disciples and causes me to not think they were so dumb after all because it is not always easy to see how this faith works. Like those disciples, I now have things that I once thought I understood about scripture cause me to scratch me head in confusion.
In the Fifth gospel I understand what it means when God says, "You honor me with your lips but your hearts are far from me", I begin to see the value in obedience over sacrifice, and I see just how big some mountains are to move. I recognize just how many "houses are built on sand" and how I often relate more to the rich man who struggled to give up everything than to the widow who gave all she owned. I see why God rejoices over one sheep that is found and why he wept when he saw Jerusalem from the top of Mount of Olives. In the Fifth Gospel I know why it was a big deal for the disciples to stay awake with their Lord and why it is upon people that the Church is built and that the world is changed.
The bottom line is that not everyone will ever have the opportunity of "living the Fifth Gospel" and I am grateful for the opportunity that I have had. I now just hope that I am able to inspire a group of people to put the reality of all of the Gospels into practical form in the context of the USA. I'm looking forward to the challenge.