Right now the Middle East remains in an uproar: Egyptians are in an uproar, and Palestinians are raging against the state of Israel. Jordan is facing a flood of refugees. Bethlehem may soon have a few tourists. But I find that the “Jerusalem Syndrom” or “Stendhal Syndrome” to be most interesting of all this: people go to the “holy” city only to find that there are a bunch of sinners there. Sinners needing to be evangelized, so they evangelize them, or at least attempt to, in their own religious versions.
I’ve been there and done that! In 1994, I was a short term worker in Washington, DC. Enjoyed my time, but got a little too isolated from the group and my mind started to wander away from the mission. I started to peregrinate and preach. I dare say, it was fun. I thought the world was going to end in 3.5 days. (Times, time, and half a time, you know.)
Well, it didn’t, and the Lord forgave me for my false prophecy. So I am no prophet. Big deal.
But that does not mean I am not an evangelist. I may not be called upon to bring a final serious message of judgment, but I can bring a message of joy to the world. That joy is found in Jesus. Moral reform is good. Preaching is good. But all cities need this preaching. All souls need the good news. I am not much of a church planter, though my efforts to disciple others have resulted in a small disciplemaking movement.
The reality is though, that my life is marked (or some would say marred) by something else: suffering and disappointment with the worldly and the temporal hopes dreams. I work part time for a government agency that works among the least and among of those in the worst circumstances as a certified peer support specialist. In other words, I’m not just certifiable, I’m certified. I have a plaque to prove it.
That sits at my desk like the the Plaque I once received as a Distinguido Guesped used to at my dorm in college. I was a Distinguished Guest of the governor of Sinaloa State or Mayor Mazatlan there in Mexico, or something like that. Yippee!! Distinguished guest. All I had to do was do a little dramatic interpretation and travel with a bunch of choral members to a podunk, persecuting part of our Southern Neighbor and have a good, clean, moral life as I honored Jesus. The Bible says, those who honor God, God will honor.
What if the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre in Israel, were to not issue a certificate of insanity, but of honor to these guests, who like Saul (i.e. Shaul) had a few chips shy of a full bag, with a certificate for their intense interest and compassion for this city of conflict. Imagine how you would feel going on vacation to Hawaii only to find all the natives working in gray suits and ties and all the land given over to the chaos that happens on Wall Street … Doesn’t sound like a vacation.
Just because you went to such an advertized “tropical paradise” that had been corrupted and spoke out for a little common sense, would you want to be called a fool? No.
But Hosea said that the prophet will be called a fool (Meshuggah). When a nice person meets a wicked world which has been worshipped with wonderful words, that nice person might get a little upset when they find out the reality. You would … Right? I hope you would.
So, back to the issue at hand. As these prophets / religiously fanatical tourists recover, why not give them a certificate for wanting the city of Jerusalem to be morally pure and peaceful?? Honor them for their ability to cope again with a sinful world. Commission them in Jesus name to preach peace to all nations.
Use those with Jerusalem or Stendhal syndrome to become Fools for Christ … people who don’t fit in with the world because they love God. Let us be a little loony for the Lord! Let us give him our minds and let us give the world a piece of it too.
Maybe those that the world calls misfits are simply called to fit into another world, a world yet to come. A world that is perfect.
In this world, we will have trouble. BUT, TAKE HEART! Jesus conquered the world!!! He is alive! He’s not dead. He’s not crazy. He’s not lazy. HE really is LORD and HE really dead get up and folded the grave clothes at the tomb. Now, he is busy building a new Jerusalem.
The old Jerusalem is like Sodom and Gomorrah: it distresses the righteous lot who try to live their so much that they can’t stand staying there forever, they run for their lives. Distressed and dispirited. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He takes care of souls who go to great cities like Mecca, Rome, and Washington, DC and New York City, only to lose their grasp on “normalcy.” He comforts us with the hope of His return. He is the Messiah. We are not.
Now, what about those who think this world is all there is? I feel sorry for them. They may be in animistic tribes wearing animal parts or they may be in the ‘hood wearing hoodies or they may be businessmen wearing ties and going to fine restaurants or they may be on a campus wearing a backpack or they may be taking care of a posse of kids whom they hope will grow up to be “normal.”
Let’s get real. It is OK if dreams are shattered and illusions are exposed. It is OK to be different. It is OK to preach outside or in the streets. Let the prisoners free! Let the slaves go free! Let the fools go free! Maybe if Jerusalem had tolerated the most Divine Fool she would be a cultivated city today, instead of a city where the past is nearly all that there is to celebrate about it at the present.
Blessings on all who go to Jerusalem to comfort my people: the mentally ill and non-conformists. May God’s people surround the saints restrained with comfort and friendship.