9 Living Christians I’d Like to Interview
Part 2 – The Second Three : Dahoud Nasser, Tim Keller, Phyllis Tickle
Dahoud Nasser is nothing less than peace personified. “We Refuse to be Enemies” is written on the entrance to his property and his heart. He is a Palestinian Christian living in one of the occupied regions of Israel, just south of Bethlehem. He is confronted daily by Israeli soldiers, and as he speaks with them, he embodies Jesus’ command to love our neighbors. His mission is to continue his father’s dream of making this piece of land “a center for people from different countries to come together and build bridges of trust and hope”…and peace.
When I first heard Dahoud speak, he told of his father’s purchase of this land in 1916, and his family’s peaceful coexistence with his Jewish and Muslim neighbors. He spoke of the difficulty of maintaining the land in the face of Israeli occupation, even though he has proof of purchase, even though he has been walled off from his Palestinian neighbors, even though his water and electricity have been shut off. If he can embrace peace in his heart and in his walk with his neighbors, how can I not embrace peace in my heart and in my own walk with mine?
Questions I’d like to ask him:
- In what ways do you measure positive change in the Israeli soldiers with whom you have daily contact?
- Have you seen a shift in “unconditional” support for Israel by American Jews and Christians; that is, are American Jews and Christians beginning to comprehend that support for occupied Palestinians must occur conditionally, along with support for Israel?
- Do you see more reason to hope, or more reason to be concerned, that the next generation of Christians, Jews and Muslims can promote a peaceful respect for one another and coexist within the love each has for the same God?
Tim Keller is a master archer. His profound yet straightforward questions are his bow; his answers are the arrows aimed straight at the heart. In The Prodigal God (©2008, p42 Riverhead Books, NY, NY), for example, He reframes Jesus’ parable by referring to it as the Parable of the Two Lost Sons. His question: “Do you realize, then, what Jesus is teaching?” His answer: “Neither son loved the father for himself. They both were using the father for their own self-centered ends rather than loving, enjoying, and serving him for his own sake.”
As I read more of Tim Keller’s books, I became aware of my own heart toward God. I became more conscious of my judgment toward others, more honest about times I have wanted to trust in people rather than in Him, more willing to be humbled and to learn from every circumstance, more apt to raise my eyes and more open to adore Him and His creation in my prayers.
Questions I’d like to ask him:
- In The Reason for God (© 2008, Riverhead Books, NY, NY, p. 40), you listed several questions by which to judge whether a community is open and caring rather than narrow and oppressive. Yet you also say we “should not criticize churches for maintaining standards of membership in accordance with their beliefs.” How does this not turn to legalism and exclusion, the opposite of what Jesus taught?
- As we seek to grow spiritually and morally, what three books would you recommend to help us in our walk (other than yours!)?
- Also in The Reason for God, you quote CS Lewis as saying that hell is, “the greatest monument to human freedom.” (p. 82). If hell is truly life without God and complete freedom to do as we choose, why do people make that choice instead of a life of peace, joy and love with God?
Phyllis Tickle is a seeker of wisdom and truth; her credentials are impeccable. In her book, Emergence Christianity (©2012, Baker Books, Grand Rapids,MI), she explores, in depth and detail, the history, culture and conversation of Christianity. She has a researcher’s mind, an educator’s ability to teach, and a disciple’s heart to knit the threads of information into a meaningful quilt of understanding.
Phyllis Tickle is a woman after my own heart. As a woman of a certain age, she could relax, knowing she has made a difference. But she a lifelong learner who continues to seek ways to mature her own character, to understand how the Holy Spirit wishes to work through her, to use the gifts she has been given to build God’s kingdom.
Questions I’d like to ask her:
- What would you say to “traditional” Christians who resist or are afraid of emergence Christianity in order to create an opening for exploration?
- What are your three favorite books (other than your own, of course) that give you insight, encouragement and joy?
- Who are, and have been, your role models?
Next Time: Andy Stanley, Margaret Feinberg, N.T. Wright