*Below is what I shared during the book release presentation for The Gospel of Rutba: War, Peace, & The Good Samaritan Story in Iraq at Wild Goose Festival in June, 2012.
Hospitality is at the heart of the gospel. It is normal to be hospitable to friends & neighbors, and it is commendable to be hospitable to strangers, but it is Christian to be hospitable to your enemies. So, what happens when you are not the Samaritan in the position to offer hospitality, but the wounded traveller in need? This is how Shane and crew found themselves in 2003…
When I found myself on the manifest to return to Iraq in 2010 as a former soldier, I too was that bruised and broken stranger left for dead on the side of the Jericho road. Years prior, I had been in the company that had surrounded the proverbial city and brought the walls tumbling down.
I was returning to my theater of combat before the war ended, and nobody knew how to negotiate the emotions and trauma our hosts and myself would paradoxically share; they from being the victims of violence and I from having perpetuated violence. Few realize that the hell of war comes not from knowing one may die, but knowing that one may kill.
Before I got on the plane, I recorded and shared my 3rd last living will and testament. I knew my presence could be very provocative to those I had formerly bombed. I knew that hospitality, like grace and reconciliation, cannot be earned or expected, only offered and received as gift. I returned to Iraq knowing I could come home with nothing. Or not come home at all.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, the former came to be true. We made it to Jordan only to decide that to share my true identity with our Iraqi hosts would endanger too many lives not our own. I would return home not knowing if reconciliation was possible (or, at least, timely).
I do know, however, that reconciliation and grace are never cut and dry. They are messy and frustrating and, at times, painful affairs. But maybe my presence in all this might represent the complexity and confusion that so often accompanies the work God is doing in our world. Grief walks beside joy, they go hand in hand; life isn’t complete without a bit of each.
My frustration has been a confounding reminder that although all manner of things will be made right, they are not yet fully so. The ‘right’ isn’t always right now. As I wrestled with whether I had come halfway around the world on a Wild Goose chase, I learned to celebrate the ‘already’ and mourn the ‘not-yet’ of not just this trip, but of the very kingdom of God.