One of the places that I visited several times on my recent trip to Israel was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This church is shared by 7 different Christian religious groups with each of them having their tradition of how Jesus was crucified and rose and again in their particular session of the Holy Church. The church was first built in the middle of the 4th century. It’s burning in Oct. 1009 by a Muslim ruler may very well have been the catalyst for the 1st crusade. The church was rebuilt by 1048 and is considered one of the most sacred of holy places and sights for Christians of all religious backgrounds. Though the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is shared by 7 different Christian groups, it has been a very sad example of Christian witness down through the centuries.
We went one night see the closing of the church’s front door. Since 1192 a Muslim family has had control of the main entrance (that’s over 800 ago). Because of constant infighting among the Christian groups over the church’s keys a few hundred years later a Muslim family was entrusted with the responsibility to open the church in the morning and lock down the church in the evening. We attended the locking of the front door. The Muslim man in the attached picture has the responsibility for locking the front door. What a sad arrangement that for over the last 500 years a Muslim family has to lock the front door of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre because the “Christians” couldn’t figure out a way to do it without fighting with one another.
Remember Jesus’ words to his 1st disciples in the 13th chapter of John’s gospel when he says “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35 NASB). What an amazing contrast with what’s actually happening to one of the most significant Christian holy places. Maybe if the folks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre could just get along the “Prince of Peace” could actually return. But what about us- do we also struggle to fight for our rights and argue with one another to the point of destroying our testimony? Again the most important way we witness for the Lord Jesus Christ is to love one another, even those we have differences with.
Pastor Rich Sivo